Eggs Benedict

Eggs benedict is an eggcellent dish with a mystery behind the plate. There are many theories about how it became famous. Many egg dishes could have inspired the chef to create the original dish. The emerging dish may be a mystery, but eggs benedict helped introduce the brunch concept. With the popularity of brunch occurring at restaurants, price differences between historical and modern eggs benedict have a big gap. Many people can vouch that eggs benedict is a great hangover cure. While the eggs benedict recipe is straightforward and requires specific techniques, there is some creative freedom regarding the English muffin concept and toppings besides the mandatory hollandaise sauce. Eggs benedict also impacted during World War II, as it was a menu item for soldiers and included different recipes. Overall, eggs benedict remains one of the essential foods in American history because of the mystery behind its development, how it gets cooked, its unique recipe, its implications for brunch and restaurant culture, and its impact on those involved in World War II.

The origin of the eggs benedict recipe remains a mystery to this day. Many historians have different theories about how the dish got cooked in the first place. The inspiration for the art of eggs benedict may have come from specific recipes from a cookbook written by an employee from the Waldorf hotel. These old recipes show some inspiration for what we enjoy today. One dish that could have inspired the chef to create eggs benedict is egg canapes. While egg canapes have different techniques and ingredients, both dishes lie on top of different pieces of bread, making the dishes look a little bit similar1.  The main difference between the two dishes is the creative freedom with the proteins; egg canapes can feature either no protein or different varieties of seafood, and eggs benedict has ham strictly as the protein2. Eggs benedict can get consumed without the ham, but to me, it is a crucial tasty part of the dish, so some may consider it weird. Another way the creator of eggs benedict could have found inspiration is from the recipe for ham croquettes3. Both are breakfast items; reading the ham croquettes recipe at first looks pretty similar, but both contain different ingredients and cooking methods4. The ham croquette recipe may have inspired the idea of eggs benedict because of the combination of eggs and ham; however, both recipes contain different appearances5.  Another way that eggs benedict could have gained inspiration is by poaching eggs for soups6.  The methods are identical for both soup and eggs benedict; the technique is something I will cover in the following few paragraphs. A simple dish most likely inspired the idea of eggs benedict is eggs placed on toast; that recipe itself is self-explanatory7. Both recipes contain poached eggs, making this simple recipe inspiring the creation of eggs benedict8. Philadelphia eggs appear as inspiration for the creation of eggs benedict. Both dishes include hollandaise sauce, English muffins, and poached eggs9. Both recipes have different types of protein; Philadelphia eggs contain chicken10. Overall, these recipes could have inspired the creation of eggs benedict in their unique ways. Now the actual creation of the dish includes different theories. The various ideas include the location of the original design of eggs benedict. Some historians believe that the eggs benedict plate came from the Waldorf Hotel; others believe that the invention came from Delmonico’s restaurant11. The Waldorf hotel could have been the original place for eggs benedict. My theory is because of the mass production of food that the employee showed while writing the cookbook; however, eggs benedict not offering that recipe does raise questions. Manhattan is the location for Delmonico’s Restaurant and the Waldorf Hotel12.  According to Mannon, “The earliest record traces back to the popular Delmonico’s Restaurant in Lower Manhattan. The theory states that chef Charles Ranhofer came up with the combination in 1894 when Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, one of his regular diners, grew tired of the menu and wanted something new. His recipe, which he dubbed Eggs a La Benedict, was published in his cookbook in 189413.” The quote mentioned shows the possibility of the origin of eggs benedict. This theory is quite intriguing because of the thought of someone feeling bored with the original menu and wanting to try something new. If this is the correct origin, it shows the creativity, and hard work of the chef who created it put out there for the beautiful dish we enjoy today. Both theories show the creativity of whoever made it, making me wish that the original chef who created eggs benedict gets known by modern-day historians and food lovers. The second theory is that the creation of eggs benedict happened at the Waldorf Hotel. In this theory, a man named Lemuel Benedict had too much to drink the night before, leading to a hangover; he dined at the Waldorf Hotel the following morning14. According to Mannon, “There he ordered a few components of this dish (though he ordered bacon instead of Canadian bacon and toast rather than an English muffin). Seeing this order come through, the maitre d’, Oscar Tschirsky, recognized how tasty it could be. Tschirsky put the dish on the menu, but this time, he added the signature Canadian bacon and English muffin15.” The quote provides excellent detail about the Waldorf hotel theory. It also raises questions about the truth because Tschirsky released a cookbook in 1896, two years after the alleged discovery. After reading the cookbook to find comparisons, I found no mention of the eggs benedict recipe. If the hangover theory is true, it shows the creativity of Tschirsky by replacing toast and regular bacon with the classic English muffin and Canadian bacon replacement. According to Mannon, “Oh, and one more thing to note, Tschirsky previously worked at Delmonico’s right around the time eggs a la Benedict started to become popular. Hmm… that one has us thinking16.” This quote shows the possibility of both theories possibly becoming true. After reading this educational blog, my idea of the creation of eggs benedict is that both events happened. Tschirsky could have found inspiration for the person bored of the Waldorf hotel menu after creating the combination of what Lemuel Benedict ordered; the person found love in the dish, making it the popular brunch we all enjoy today. My reasoning for coming up with this theory is because, as a reader, I wonder where the idea that Tschirsky had with replacing bacon and toast with the English muffin and Canadian bacon came from. Possibly, the bored customer inspired Tschirsky to switch up the ingredients. Another theory is that eggs benedict originated from an American trying it while on vacation in France17. I feel the idea may work because that traveler could have some truth to it since they could have had some sort of relationship with Tschirsky. The blog that states this theory mentions that because of the creation of eggs benedict, a restaurant in Denver has eggs benedict day on April 16th, ironically, my birthday18. Overall, all three of these theories tie together in many ways, making the actual origin of the dish yet a mystery but a possible puzzle that can get pieced together easily. 

The recipe for eggs benedict is very intriguing because of the unlikely combination of poached eggs topped with the English muffin, Canadian bacon, and hollandaise sauce; eggs benedict produces a lovely rich taste. The recipe for eggs a la benedict came from a magazine called Table Talk. Table Talk is a food magazine that started publication in the 1800s; many still read Table Talk for food interests today. In 1887, a chef from Savannah, Georgia, wrote her technique on creating eggs benedict19. The recipe starts with making the hollandaise sauce: the instructions for making hollandaise sauce include separating a cup of butter into three parts and poring the butter into a pan that consists of a tablespoon of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, two egg yolks, beaten together20. The saucepan with the ingredients for hollandaise sauce should simmer on a pan on top of hot water, meaning that the cook should wisk whole, adding the butter slowly until the sauce thickens and it is ready. The ham should also get fried and laid on top of toast, with a poached egg and the thick and creamy hollandaise sauce on top21. When I cooked eggs benedict, instead of whisking it on top of simmering water, I blended the egg yolks and lemon juice and poured in the butter slowly. I then put the blender in a pan full of hot water to keep the hollandaise sauce hot. My technique works as long as it stays in hot water for a limited time; otherwise, the sauce will thin out but still tastes good. I fried the ham by putting a couple of pieces at a time in a pan and putting the stove on medium heat, and then I flipped the ham until cooked all the way through. According to Tschirsky, “Put a gallon of water in a saucepan on the fire to boil gently, adding a large pinch of salt. When the water boils, break in eight eggs very delicately, without injuring the yolks, and leave them to cook for a few minutes; lift them out with a skimmer and serve on toasts, or otherwise while still very hot22.” This quote shows the proper way to poach eggs to create a delicious eggs benedict. When I cooked eggs benedict with my mother, she advised me not to insert the eggs into the water until the water reached 190 degrees Fahrenheit, with no boil. My mother also advised me to add some white vinegar to the water and how to put the egg in the water to poach properly. She told me to crack the eggs in a small bowl and then to pour that egg in slowly by immersing part of the bowl in the water. I cooked the dish twice. When I cooked with my mother, the plate executed perfectly; when I cooked it with my boyfriend, my yolks were runny but still delicious. The image below was eggs benedict when I cooked it with my mother before the hollandaise sauce thinned out. The other pictures include other cooking techniques I used throughout cooking the dish. English muffins are essential ingredients used for eggs benedict; they can get bought from a grocery store or homemade. The recipe requires a pint of cool milk, half of a cup of yeast caked up, a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, four and a half cups of flour, and two tablespoons of cooking oil23. The crucial recipe requires oven work, stirring, and overnight prep24. The essential recipe is why I bought English muffins from the store.

Eggs benedict can go with our without a side dish; when I cooked both times, I did not include any side dishes. The most popular side dish some may consume with eggs benedict is asparagus. Many choose asparagus since it tastes excellent with hollandaise sauce. Tschirsky provides a simple asparagus recipe that requires the cook to cut off heads, drain them, put them in a pan with some warmed butter, and then place the sauce25. While this specific recipe calls for bechamel sauce, hollandaise can act as a replacement26. Eggs benedict requires many complicated steps, but mastering the dish is worth the hard work. 

The creation of eggs benedict impacted brunch culture. Not everyone may order eggs benedict at brunch, but eggs remain popular. Brunch is breakfast during lunchtime. Brunch originally started in England, then spread to the United States; many debates about where in the states brunch started: some say it began in New York City while others suggest it began in New Orleans27. According to Ternikar, “The spread of brunch has been shaped by social class, gender, and religious norms. Brunch began on Sundays and became a ritual shared on Saturdays and Sundays28.” The quote explains the appeal to brunch: the upper-class has more privilege to enjoy this ritual. Comparing menu prices in history is very significant since, nowadays, everything is expensive. An old menu shadows that eggs benedict is priced at 6.50$ and hot drinks at 1.50$29. Nowadays, espresso drinks are more costly, and eggs benedict is priced at fifteen dollars at most. Many people I know like to enjoy brunch after attending church.  Gender norms may take part because a male may feel subjected to pay for these meals. According to Ternikar, “Brunch lends itself to informality and leisure, culinary indulgences, and comfort food. Brunch is the guilt-free meal when you can eat your cake too, or fried chicken and waffles or eggs Benedict and French toast30.” The quote gives us a better definition of lunch and what meals many enjoy. These menu items listed in the quote also indicate that brunch may act as a hangover cure. Because of eggs benedict’s impact on brunch culture, Mcdonalds’ adopted it as a fast food item31. Specifically, Mcdonalds’ modified the eggs benedict recipe to the egg McMuffin that modern-day fast food lovers enjoy32. Due to the theories of the dish’s invention have significantly impacted today’s brunch culture since it is a popular dish. Overall, not only did eggs benedict impact brunch lovers, but it also moved fast food into what it is today.

During World War II, eggs benedict got provided to soldiers, which influenced food history. A cookbook includes many recipes soldiers could cook during this brutal war, including eggs benedict33. Even though the cookbook got designed for soldiers, everyone got encouraged to eat meat and eggs because of the protein values.  Ironically the title of the cookbook is Meat Alternatives, even though the cookbook offers meat options34.  However, it makes sense because soldiers require a strict diet to remain healthy and active. The book considers the hollandaise sauce for this “never failing35.” According to Davis, “Eggs are good body builders36.” The short and straightforward passage gives context on the importance of everyone consuming eggs benedict and other egg dishes. Eggs Benedict is a vital meal source for soldiers since it contains Canadian Bacon and eggs; both ingredients contain protein, which is good for muscle. An exciting dish the cookbook contains that is like eggs benedict is eggs and asparagus au gratin37. The recipe is exciting because it emphasizes how great the combination is with eggs and asparagus. Even though the cookbook provides how important meals are to soldiers, there was a mass famine worldwide, depriving civilians and some soldiers of cooking and eating38. Overall, the cookbook made during World War II shows recipes that soldiers were encouraged to cook, especially eggs benedict. 

Overall, eggs benedict remains one of the essential foods in American history because of the mystery behind its development, how it gets cooked, its unique recipe, its implications for brunch and restaurant culture, and its impact on those involved in World War II. The mysterious origins of eggs benedict are intriguing because of the initial development at Delmonico’s or the Waldorf hotel. Eggs benedict also has a unique recipe that remains popular in brunch culture. Eggs benedict even helped design a popular breakfast item from McDonald’s’. The consumption of eggs benedict and other egg dishes impacted soldiers’ performances during World War II. Thanks to how eggs benedict developed, it is a brunch item that I and many others enjoy. 

  1. Tschirky, Oscar. The Cook Book by “Oscar” of the Waldorf. The Werner Company, 1896. 127
  2. Ibid, 127-129
  3.  Ibid, 217
  4. Ibid
  5.  Ibid
  6.  Ibid, 547
  7.  Ibid, 588
  8.  Ibid
  9. Ibid
  10.  Ibid
  11. Mannon, Grace. “Who Do We Have to Thank for Eggs Benedict, Our Favorite Brunch Dish?” Taste of Home. Taste of Home, July 15, 2022. https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/who-created-eggs-benedict/#:~:text=It%20was%20invented%20at%20Delmonico%27s,menu%20and%20wanted%20something%20new. 
  12.  Ibid
  13.  Ibid
  14. Ibid
  15. Ibid
  16. Ibid
  17. OPHD1996. “Origin of Eggs Benedict.” The Original Pancake House Denver, September 5, 2019. https://www.ophdenver.com/origin-of-eggs-benedict/.
  18. Ibid
  19. Table Talk. United States: Arthur H. Crist Company, 1897. 64.
  20.  Ibid
  21. Ibid
  22. Tschirsky, 589
  23. Mills, Marjorie. Better Homes Recipe Book. Boston: Herald-Traveler, 1933. 10.
  24. Ibid
  25.  Tschirsky, 437
  26. Ibid
  27. Ternikar, Farha. Brunch – A History. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. xiii.
  28. Ibid
  29. “Hot Drinks Déjeuner – Lepechemignon.co.uk.” LPM menu. Accessed December 4, 2022. http://www.lepechemignon.co.uk/pdf/LPM_menu.pdf.
  30. Ternikar, 1
  31.  Ibid, 6
  32. Ibid
  33. Davis, Eleanore G. Meat Alternates. Pullman, WA: Extension Service, State College of Washington, 1943.
  34. Davis, 6
  35. Ibid, 5
  36. Ibid
  37. Ibid, 4
  38. Collingham, E. M. The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food. New York, NY: Penguin Books, Published by the Penguin Group, 2013. Introduction, 1

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