Where Were These 10 Famous Dishes Invented? Their Origins Are All in Dispute
Few things inspire national and civic pride the way a signature food or beverage does. So, it stands to reason, nothing inspires long-standing rivalries the way some other jerk country or city claiming they invented your point of civic or national pride does. From postcard writing campaigns to legal battles, these disputes (and even mysteries) all have one thing in common—they’ll leave you craving an egg cream like you wouldn’t believe.
WHERE: Australia vs. New Zealand
The pavlova is a lovely dessert. You have a meringue base that’s topped with whipped cream and garnished with fruit—often strawberries and/or kiwi. And adding an additional air of loveliness is the fact that this treat was named in honor of Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina. But at the center of this delicate dessert is a hotly contested debate. The dessert was given its name during or after Pavlova and her company would have toured in Australia and New Zealand—and both countries claim to have made it first. The Australian argument states that in 1935 Bert Sachse created the pavlova at the Esplanade Hotel in Perth. But the Oxford English Dictionary, which forefronts the earliest recorded origins of words, notes that a published pavlova recipe first appeared in a book from New Zealand.
Ice Cream Sundae
WHERE: Two Rivers, Wisconsin vs. Ithaca, New York
Several American towns have claimed to be the birthplace of the ice cream sundae. Most of the creation stories center around a late 19th-century “blue law” that forbade the selling of soda on Sundays (hence the name), prompting soda shops to sell ice cream sodas without the soda, leaving just the ice cream and syrup.
But the most embittered rivalry is between Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and Ithaca, New York. Two Rivers claims that in 1881 a patron of a soda shop owned by Edward C. Berners requested that his ice cream be drizzled with chocolate sauce. The popular dish was served only on Sundays. Ithaca’s claim is supported with the earliest published mention of a sundae thanks to an ad that a local pharmacy placed advertising its “Cherry Sunday.” Team Ithaca has sought to poke holes in the Two Rivers story, with two high school students from New York pointing out that Berners would have been in his mid to late teens in 1881 and it seemed unlikely that he would have owned a soda shop (on the other hand, “teens” weren’t invented until well into the 20th century, so who knows).
The rivalry spun out into a national story in 2006 when Ithaca’s visitor bureau decided to capitalize on their history by offering visitors free sundaes on Sundays in July. Two Rivers responded by distributing postcards during a summer festival that citizens were then instructed to mail to Ithaca’s mayor. The postcards read “Ice cream sundaes are sweet …/and they give you the shivers./Just remember they started/right here in Two Rivers!” The two cities went back and forth over the summer but eventually reached a détente.
Deep Dish Pizza
WHERE: Ike Sewell vs. Rudy Malnati
If Netflix’s Emily in Paris has proven anything (other than selfies plus Eiffel Tower equals Instagram sensation) it’s that you don’t mess with deep dish . So, while no one outside the Windy City has dared to lay claim to Chicago-style pizza, the individual that first created it is shrouded in some mystery. The conventional story is that the deep dish pizza was invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943 by Ike Sewell, but another version of the story states that Rudy Malnati (who would go on to be a chef for Pizzeria Uno) created the recipe. Malnati’s son would also work at Pizzeria Uno but would go on to open Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria.
WHERE: The Brown Derby vs. The Brown Derby
While the origin of the Cobb salad isn’t as hotly disputed in real life as it is in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm , there are a couple of different people who may have been the first to toss greens, tomato, bacon, boiled eggs, chicken breast, cheese, and vinaigrette into a hearty salad. The story goes that Robert Cobb, the owner of The Brown Derby, entered the Hollywood restaurant late one night in 1937 positively famished and decided to toss whatever happened to be in the kitchen into a salad. He then named this random amalgamation of ingredients the Cobb Salad. But there’s another story wherein Robert Kreis, the Brown Derby’s executive chef, made the salad in 1929 and named the salad after the restaurant’s owner.
WHERE: Peru vs. Chile
If it seems like there’s little question about where pisco originated, a South American brandy as synonymous with Peru as Machu Picchu, it might have something to do with the fact that the country has been successful in securing the geographic indicator for pisco. Just like sparkling wine outside of the Champagne region of France can’t be called champagne, as Peru’s Minister of Production put it , “there is no Chilean pisco, that is grape brandy made in Chile.” Indeed, while Peru has long had a secure claim as being the origin of pisco (the brandy was created with grapes brought to Peru during the Spanish conquest), neighboring Chile has long had a history of making sure their pisco is part of the conversation. Chile has claimed that the most famous way to drink pisco (the pisco sour) was invented in a bar in Valparaiso in 1924 (but evidence of the drink being invented in Peru predates even that).
WHERE: England vs. France vs. Ireland vs. America
It doesn’t seem like the origin of beef Wellington should be such a mystery. “It was invented by some old English guy named Wellington. It’s right in the name. Done and done, let’s do lunch. Maybe some beef Wellington.” But au contraire . The apocryphal story is that the dish was created in honor of the first Duke of Wellington after his victory over Napoleon at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. But of course, wrapping meat in pastry had been in the European culinary ether for quite a while, so perhaps it was a French recipe that was given a British rebranding. And while it is similar to boeuf en croute, the Wellington’s first confirmed reference isn’t until the early 20th century in the Los Angeles Times . Adding to the puzzle, the story in the Los Angeles Times refers to the “fillet of beef, ala Wellington” refers to a dish of Irish origin. Wherever it’s from, it’s delicious and that’s what’s important.
Chicken a la King
WHERE: The United States vs. The United Kingdom
The various origins of this dish can’t even agree on whether it’s chicken a la King or chicken a la Keene (and those versions aren’t even named after the same Keene or King). Claridge’s Hotel in London claims to have created the dish in 1881 and named it after James Robert Keene, a stockbroker and racehorse owner. The Delmonico in New York also claims to have created the dish in the 1880s after James Robert Keene’s son, Foxhall Parker Keene. The version created at the Brighton Beach Hotel in New York is named after E. Clarke King II. And, finally, William “Bill” King is said to have invented the dish at the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia.
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WHERE: Sorrento vs. Capri vs. Amalfi
It’s no wonder why several Italian regions are jockeying to name themselves the birthplace of limoncello—the lemon liqueur is basically a boozy lemonade a.k.a. the ideal alcohol-based experience. Massimo Canale, who registered the trademark for the liqueur in 1988, states that it was invented by his great grandmother who created it at a small inn in Capri. Another story posits that its origin can be traced to Sorrento, where the region’s foremost families offered limoncello to their guests. In Amalfi, the story of limoncello is as old as the cultivation of lemon trees.
WHERE: New York City vs. Paris
Two great cities, one great drink, no clear explanation for why something that calls for neither eggs nor cream is called an egg cream. One theory posits that Boris Thomashevsky, a Yiddish theater pioneer, requested a recreation of a Parisian drink—chocolat et crème— at a New York City soda fountain, and the “et ” became “egg.” Another suggests that it comes from the Yiddish word “echt ” meaning “genuine or real.”
WHERE: Korea vs. Japan
Technically speaking, no one is disputing that Korea is kimchi’s country of origin. And that’s kind of the point. Kimchi has a two-thousand-year history in Korea. But in 1996, Korea argued that kimchi produced in Japan was not fermented and thus could not be called kimchi. The Codex Alimentarius, a collection of recognized standards when it comes to food production, ruled in favor of Korea, defining kimchi, in part, as a fermented food.