Luisa Tetrazzini

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

As you dig into your holiday turkey leftovers, get to know Luisa Tetrazzini—beloved Italian opera star

Sunset, Volume 26, (California: Passenger Dept., So. Pacific Company, 1911) - CREDIT: Google eBooks

Sunset, Volume 26, (California: Passenger Dept., So. Pacific Company, 1911) – CREDIT: Google eBooks

Turkey and chicken leftovers often find themselves chopped up and tossed in recipes ending in ‘à la King‘ and ‘Tetrazzini‘. Just last weekend, I pulled out Emeril Lagasses’s recipe for Chicken à la King to use up some turkey leftovers, and I have Ree Drummond’s Turkey Tetrazzini recipe on standby for Christmas.

Historically the two dishes appeared within less than two decades of each other—‘à la King’ in the early 1890s was the invention of Chef William King of the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia*, and ‘Tetrazzini’ was lovingly assembled in 1908-1910 by Chef Ernest Arbogast of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California*, a city adored by Italian opera star Luisa Tertrazzini (1871-1940) and the site of her 1905 US debut. I confess that until recently, I’d never heard of Luisa nor did I know the origins of the culinary creation that bears her name. Discovering her has been a wonderful surprise.

Luisa was a huge phenomenon in her day, and it would be a shame if current generations did not get to know who she was and the cultural contributions she made to her adopted country, particularly to her beloved San Francisco, victim of a devastating earthquake in 1906.

After her San Francisco debut, Luisa headed to New York where she was a huge sensation and worked for the great Oscar Hammerstein. Some legal disputes erupted at one point that were preventing her from performing in New York. The feisty Luisa called a press conference and made her famous pronouncement: “I will sing in San Francisco if I have to sing there in the streets, for I know the streets of San Francisco are free.” And that is exactly what Luisa did after winning her legal battles.

Luisa Tetrazzini - Photo from 1909 book Heart Songs - Wikimedia

Luisa Tetrazzini – Photo from 1909 book Heart Songs – Wikimedia

On Christmas Eve 1910, she demonstrated her affection for the City by the Bay with a live evening performance before an audience estimated at up to 300,000 people. In the heart of the city, near the famed ‘Lotta’s Fountain‘, accompanied by Steindorff’s Orchestra and choristers from the Good Samaritan Mission and the Church of St. John the Baptist, Madame Luisa Tetrazzini, age 39, sang her heart out. As one newspaper described it: “It was a Christmas party at which San Francisco ‘hung up’ its ears instead of its stockings and filled them with the gold and silver of Tetrazzini’s music.” **

Visit YouTube today, and you can have the privilege of listening to this amazing star yourself. There are dozens of links to choose from, all accompanied by some image of the Italian diva.

Much was written about that Christmas Eve performance so many years ago, and I’m posting a few of the articles I’ve found here, just so you can get a sense of how utterly phenomenal Luisa was and why she truly deserves to be remembered for generations to come.

Suffice it to say that from now on, whenever I reach for my recipe for Chicken/Turkey Tetrazzini or think of San Francisco, I will remember this portly little lady with the heavenly voice who was adored by millions of our ancestors and brought so much joy to the lives of so many.

(CLICK IMAGES BELOW FOR LEGIBLE VIEWS)

Sunset, Volume 26, (California: Passenger Dept., So. Pacific Company, 1911) - CREDIT: Google eBooks

“Madame Tetrazzini singing in the streets of San Francisco, Christmas Eve. On the platform built for her among the people, surrounded by orchestra and choristers, radiant in a jeweled dress under a multitude of calciums***, the great diva sang to a gathering from all classes and all climes. There was such stillness in the crowded square that the upper tones of her song were clearly heard on the roofs of buildings four blocks away.” Sunset, Volume 26, (California: Passenger Dept., So. Pacific Company, 1911) – CREDIT: Google eBooks

Sunset, Volume 26, (California: Passenger Dept., So. Pacific Company, 1911) - CREDIT: Google eBooks

Sunset, Volume 26, (California: Passenger Dept., So. Pacific Company, 1911) – CREDIT: Google eBooks

Sunset, Volume 26, (California: Passenger Dept., So. Pacific Company, 1911) - CREDIT: Google eBooks

Sunset, Volume 26, (California: Passenger Dept., So. Pacific Company, 1911) – CREDIT: Google eBooks

San Francisco Call, Volume 109, Number 25, 25 December 1910; This and next 3 images courtesy of: California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, <http://cdnc.ucr.edu>. All newspapers published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain and therefore have no restrictions on use.

San Francisco’s The Call, Volume 109, Number 25, 25 December 1910; California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, <http://cdnc.ucr.edu&gt;. All newspapers published before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain and therefore have no restrictions on use.

San Francisco Call, Volume 109, Number 25, 25 December 1910 _p2

San Francisco Call, Volume 109, Number 25, 25 December 1910 _p3

San Francisco Call, Volume 109, Number 25, 25 December 1910 _p4

***Christmas Eve Concert – commemorative plaque unveiled – March 1912***

San Francisco Call, Volume 111, Number 116, 25 March 1912 _p1

Credit this and below image: San Francisco’s The Call, Volume 111, Number 116, 25 March 1912

San Francisco Call, Volume 111, Number 116, 25 March 1912_p2

*****************************************************************************************************************************
*Wikipedia

**San Francisco’s The Call, Sunday, December 25, 1910, pp. 29-36.

***calciums = calcium lights that produce light effects

Categories: Arts & Culture, California, Food: Family Recipes & Favorites, Luisa Tetrazzini, Miscellaneous, San Francisco | 10 Comments

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