Various foodstuffs have been named for famous people (e.g, Beef Wellington for the Duke of Wellington, victor over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo; Pavlova, a meringue dessert, for the ballerina Anna Pavlova; Oysters Rockefeller for oilman John D.Rockefeller), but one figure is extraordinary for having four foods so christened in her honor.

Dame Nettie Melba, 19 May 1861 to 23 February 1931, one of the most famous opera sopranos of the late Victorian Era. Born Heten Porter Mitchell into a musical family in Victoria, Australia, she took the stage name Nellie Melba as a tribute to Melbourne, the hometown of her teen years.

Legend has it that the creation of Peach Melba was prompted by the singer’s concern that too much ice cream would harm her vocal cords; by making the frozen confection merely part of the dish rather than the whole of the item, world famous chef Escoffier avoided that disastrous potentiality.

The Savoy’s renowned chef also produced two lesser known food creations named in Nettie Melba’s honor: Melba sauce, a sweet purée of raspberries and red currant, and Melba garniture (tomatoes stuffed with chicken) and truffles and mushrooms in a rich white sauce.

Melba died in 1931 at the age of 69 of septicemia (blood poisoning). while some accounts of the soprano’s life attribute her fatal illness to facial surgery (most commonly reported to have been a face lift) the singer underwent in Europe some weeks before, other accounts dispute that claim, pointing to the five-month span between the surgery and her death.

Dame Melba’s voice lives on through recordings of some of her performances. Her image adorns the face of the Australian A$100 banknote.

Source: Excerpt from an article in Snopes.com

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