What’s In A Name?

Have you ever wondered just who Granny Smith was? Or why it’s called a Margherita Pizza? Or why there is a fish confusingly called Bombay duck? I have. It’s amazing what you can distract yourself with when you have an essay to write! I’m currently specialising in the art of procrastination. Although I really shouldn’t encourage you to do the same, please read on and discover more about how some of our favourite foods got their names!


Granny Smith Apples

These apples take their name from Maria Ann Smith (nee Sherwood) who emigrated from England to Australia in 1838 with her husband Thomas Smith. They bought a farm in New South Wales and grew apples. The seedling for the Granny Smith apple developed from the remains of some French crab apples. Unfortunately Maria Smith’s apples did not become famous until after her death in 1870. Local orchardists continued to grow this variety of green apple and entered them in agricultural shows as ‘Granny Smith’s’.


Caesar Salad

You may have thought that this dish was linked to the ancient Roman Caesar but this is a much newer creation. Actually this salad was created in the 1920’s by Caesar Cardini who owned an Italian restaurant called Caesar’s Place in Tijuana, Mexico.  Like many great culinary creations this dish was actually hurriedly improvised when more guests arrived than he was expecting and he had to put something together with the ingredients that he had in store.


Bombay Duck

Despite its name the Bombay duck is actually a lizardfish which is native to the seas around Mumbai (formally Bombay). These fish were transported across India by the railways and as they have an overpowering smell they were consigned to the mail train or Bombay Daak. Apparently the phrase ‘You smell like the Bombay Daak’ became common. This was then corrupted by English speakers until it became the Bombay duck.


Baked Alaska

The name of this dessert was invented by the chef Charles Ranhofer in 1876 to celebrate the purchase of the Alaska territory from Russia. There was a similar dessert already in existence in China before this time, only this usually used hot pastry instead of meringue to enclose the ice cream. The French introduced the meringue and Ranhofer served up his own version of the dish at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York.


Margherita Pizza

This extremely popular pizza was named in honour of Queen Margherita of Italy during a visit to Naples with her husband King Umberto in 1889. The colours of the topping are supposed to resemble the Italian flag with red tomatoes, white mozzarella and green basil. Apparently the chef Rafaelle Esposito presented her with three pizzas and this was her favourite.



Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Anaya invented the nacho in 1943 at the Victory club restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico. These original Nachos were made from fried tortilla chips, jalapeños and melted cheese.  The story goes that a group of military wives, whose husbands were stationed nearby, arrived at the Victory club after a shopping trip and found that it had already closed. Not wanting to disappoint them Ignacio Anaya threw together this new dish with what few ingredients he had left. There is now even an International Day of the Nacho which surprisingly, according to Wikipedia, ‘is observed chiefly by eating Nachos’.


Helen Jackson


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