Food & Drink: To remember me by

Intimations of immortality - via a dish created in one's honour
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
CALL ME an overachiever, but I have my heart set on attaining a little immortality before I pop off. Is it asking too much that long after I'm gone, my name will be remembered with fondness and affection? That it will somehow play a part in the lives of people I will never meet? No, of course it isn't.

Yet immortality is pretty tricky stuff. Wanting it is one thing, getting it is another matter altogether. There are no countries left to discover, all the peaks have been climbed, and frankly, a solo yachtsman going around the world is more of a nuisance than an heroic event these days.

The traditional method is to do something miraculous and worthwhile that will change the world forever. I tried this last Tuesday and nobody noticed, so I guess that's out.

There is only one sure-fire way. I have to get some fabulous, high profile celebrity chef to create a dish and name it in my honour. Maybe Jean-Christophe, Marco or Gordon could whip something up after service one night. Not just any old thing, but something that really sums up my character; something large yet graceful, complex yet simple. It would have to be tall, dressed in black, and slightly bitter. Chocolate, perhaps?

It's a pity Auguste Escoffier isn't still around, or he could have done for me what he did for the Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, in 1892. When the Duke of Orleans held a special dinner at the Savoy Hotel to honour Melba's performance in Wagner's Lohengrin, the chef pulled out all the stops. Inspired by the singer's greatness and the potential for publicity, Escoffier created a glorious vision of a carved-ice swan floating on a sea of vanilla ice-cream, bearing plump, ripe, poached peaches draped in a raspberry coulis. Topping it off was a fine, silky web of spun sugar.

While Escoffier's recipe for Peche Melba has evolved into canned peach slices on commercial ice-cream with raspberry syrup, the important thing is that her name is still on the menu, 100 years later.

Then there are people like the American millionaire, John D Rockefeller, who could have bought and sold his immortality a hundred times over. Yet when we remember his name today, we think not of oil wells, railroads or steel plants, but of a lush, classy dish of warmed oysters enrobed in a pureed sauce of green herbs and vegetables.

Jules Alciatore of Antoine's restaurant in New Orleans created Oysters Rockefeller in 1899, when he was threatened by a shortage of snails from France for his famous Escargots a la Bourguignonne. It was so rich, he named it for the richest man he knew. But I wonder whether Mr Rockefeller was all that thrilled about being transformed into a snail substitute.

Far better to be remembered as a man of substance and extravagance, like Gioacchino Rossini. While opera lovers may remember every note of The Barber of Seville, my thoughts go to the Parisian chef who, in 1855, responded to Rossini's request for "something with foie gras and truffles" by creating the timeless Tournedos Rossini.

Since the 1930s, the most popular summer drink at Harry's was a deliciously rosy concoction of sparkling Prosecco wine and white peach juice. It remained nameless until an exhibition opened in 1948 honouring a painter known for his peachy-keen colours. His name, (Giovanni) Bellini, is now on everyone's lips, every summer, around the world.

So what will my dish be? Something with caviare perhaps? Or lobster? Truffles, foie gras, oysters? There are some unkind people who suggest that an entire buffet might be more appropriate.

I don't care what my namesake is, as long as it looks good, tastes good, and has real staying power.

Why go down in the history books, when you can go down in the cookery books?