benedict.jpgThe intersection between gastronomy and eponymy can become a little clouded with time, after ambiguity muddies origins and vested familial or regional pride raises emotional stakes. In contentious days such as these, even seemingly innocuous table conversation can quickly become heated. That is why we find debates over the namesakes of food items highly entertaining.

The New York Times addresses Eggs Benedict this Sunday. According to its audio slideshow (link available in Times article sidebar), the dish was named after Lemuel Benedict in 1894 at the old Waldorf and Astoria Hotels. Lemuel was the scion of one of New York's 400 families and a high-living Wall St. gadfly. Seating himself at the W=A one morning in a slightly hungover condition, Lemuel asked the chef Oscar Tschirky to prepare a dish of now-familiar ingredients, except it had bacon and toast instead of ham and english muffins. The pictures of the old Waldorf = Astoria alone are worth recommending the A/V piece for, but the reminiscences of Ethyle Benedict, the widow of Lemuel's nephew Coleman, really sell the audio slideshow.

This is only the beginning of the story, of course. Differing accounts, confusing coincidences, and a "Crazy Cousin Jack" will only serve to make this tale more interesting to talk about over your morning table.