Dame Nellie Melba was born Helen Porter Mitchell on May 19, 1861 in Richmond (Melbourne), Victoria, Australia. Her father had moved from Scotland to Australia in 1852 and was a successful builder. Her mother was dedicated to teaching her daughter music. Mitchell took the name Melba (after her hometown of Melbourne) later in life, but she made her first public singing appearance at age six.
|Dame Nellie Melba|
She was popular even though her singing roles included 10 that she did very well and another 15 that she was less well known for. She raised money for war charities during the WWI. She sang and performed in operas until the end of her life in 1931.
Dame Nellie remained married as she and her husband had a son, but she eventually had an affair with Duke Phillipe d’Orleans, who had a claim to the throne of France from 1894 to 1926. They generated lots of gossip, but none so scandalous as when they traveled to St. Petersburg together where she sang for Tsar Nicholas II. The Dame’s husband filed for divorce, naming Prince Phillipe. That embarrassment was more than his family wanted, so he was made to break off his relationship with the singer. He did so by going on a two-year safari in Africa and leaving her behind.
Melba made many recordings. She was the first world renowned opera singer to sing live on the radio. She was honored in many ways for her charity work. There are plaques, statues and places named after her. her face is on postage stamps, coins and 100 dollar bills. French Chef Auguste Escoffier, probably the most popular chef in his historic era, named four foods for her. Melba toast, Melba sauce, Melba Garniture (chicken, truffles and mushrooms stuffed into tomatoes) and Peach Melba, which I’m featuring in this post.
My favorite fact about Dame Nellie Melba is the fact that after her career had come to making her one of the most popular opera singers, she returned to Australia and performed a series of “concerts for the people”, with very low ticket prices so common people could see and hear her perform. That’s class!
Escoffier’s recipe for Peach Melba is actually kind of easy. The most work required is in the sauce! Peach Melba is a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with two peach halves … drizzled with freshly made raspberry sauce. To peel the peaches, you simply blanch them in boiling water and place them in cold water. The peels will slice off. Cut them in half and remove the pits.
To make the sauce, press fresh raspberries through a wire mesh sieve so the seeds remain in the sieve. Add confectioner’s sugar to the raspberry juice/syrup. The sweet syrup is fantastic!
At my house, we like to grill peach halves in the summertime and serve them in a glass of port wine! Grilled peaches over vanilla ice cream with the raspberry sauce is really good, too! When we cannot get fresh peaches, we used canned peach halves … and sometimes I serve this using lemon sherbet instead of ice cream.
This post is a part of my 2021 Foods Named After Famous People project. If you'd like to read similar articles, just click the menu tab. I'll share with a couple blog parties, too, so check the short list on my sidebar.