1904: Madame Melba prompts Madame De Ryther to write about puddings

Nellie_Melba_1

Australian opera singer Nellie Melba (1861-1931), 1896 (Credit: United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b11681–Public domain in US)

Well, it’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, and food is now the farthest thing from my mind. I’ve cooked and baked enough in the last week to happily sail through the next few months without doing either, but I promised you a series of “Madame De Ryther Mondays” until Christmas… So here is a 1904 article in which she discusses how to make puddings: rice pudding, tapioca pudding, chocolate pudding, and one other whose name is concealed by the Fulton History site’s logo label. Since I honestly can’t bear the thought right now of unwrapping another stick of butter or spooning heaping tablespoonfuls of sugar into anything, I am currently psychologically unable to try any of these recipes out myself. But don’t let that stop you if you have managed to remain “on your kitchen feet,” both mentally & physically, in the aftermath of Thanksgiving ;-).

In her article, professional-singer-turned-food-writer Madame De Ryther opens with a comment made by Madame Melba (1861-1931), an Australia-born, world-renowned opera star, with whom Madame De Ryther was obviously acquainted, their singing careers, perhaps, having brought them together at some point.

Who was Madame Melba?  Per Wikipedia: Dame Nellie Melba GBE (19 May 1861 – 23 February 1931), born Helen Porter Mitchell, was an Australian operatic soprano. She became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian era and the early 20th century. She was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician. She took the pseudonym “Melba” from Melbourne, her home town. And, yes, “Peach Melba,” “Melba toast,” “Melba garniture,” and “Melba sauce” were all created in her honor by a French chef named Auguste Escoffier. I must admit that I often heard mention of Melba toast and peach Melba while growing up, but it was not until writing this post that I’d heard of Madame Melba (I’m embarrassed to say) and was able to put 2 and 2 together (much like discovering Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini last year, and making the link with Chicken/Turkey Tetrazzini). (Note: Viewers of season 4 (2013) of Downton Abbey would have seen Madame Melba (played by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, New Zealand’s famed soprano) perform for Lord and Lady Grantham; I was not a Downton viewer at that time.)

The_Magic_Pudding

Australian children’s classic: The Magic Pudding (1918) by Norm Lindsay; Yes, Madame Melba was from a country that most certainly knows a thing or two about pudding! (Credit: Wikipedia – Image in Public Domain in US)

Getting back now to the article, Madame De Ryther reports that Madame Melba had once lamented to her the lack of good puddings in America, and having traveled the world and sampled desserts along the way, she indeed must have known a thing or two about the topic. In 1904, when this article appeared, everyone in America would have heard of Madame Melba, so using Melba’s opinion about America’s lack of good puddings was certainly a clever way for Madame De Ryther to hook her readers.

However, the food writer is not all that excited about replicating European puddings, more specifically English puddings, which she considers to be too heavy by American standards (and if you’re familiar with British cuisine, you know what she means—puddings here in the US are very different; Jello-type pudding comes to mind or rice pudding or tapioca, not hearty, classic fare like sticky toffee pudding, bread & butter pudding, spotted dick, and the like—puddings that I personally like, albeit usually in small doses).

The recipes Madame De Ryther includes here are for much lighter and “daintier” versions that she feels would suit the American palate better than English-style puddings which were designed to “to drive the heavy fog from [English] stomachs,” according to one French chef.

Of course, at this point neither a heavy pudding nor a light one could drive away the heavy Thanksgiving fog in my stomach! But that is neither here nor there. I’m sure Madame De Ryther’s recipes helped her readers “whip up” some divine puddings.  I’ll just wait ’til I’m fully “recovered” to give them a try! 😉

PS: With Christmas fast approaching, for a fun and superbly informative post on English Christmas puddings that has lots of great images, click here. And for a few Madame Melba YouTube videos, scroll down below the article. Have a great day, all!

New York Press, 1904 (exact date unknown) - Credit: FultonHistory dot com

New York Press, 1904 (exact date unknown) – Credit: FultonHistory dot com

Categories: Christmas, Food: Family Recipes & Favorites, Luisa Tetrazzini, Madame Jule de Ryther, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “1904: Madame Melba prompts Madame De Ryther to write about puddings

  1. What fun! I did not make the Melba toast/peach connection, so thank you for helping me do so. I love food history–nicely done.

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  2. An interesting post! I’ve heard of Melba Toast and Peach Melba, too, but never thought about origins! I don’t remember that episode of Downton. I may have to go back and review! 🙂

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  3. Great post! Like Lesley, I hadn’t made the Melba toast – peach connection either. Or (and this is a real forehead slapping moment), that she took the name Melba from Melbourne — despite knowing that she was Australian, and from Melboourne. Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

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