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Harper's Elbows

In January of 1896 at the Caf de Paris in Monte Carlo, the Prince of Wales ordered a special dessert for himself and his young female companion.

In January of 1896 at the Caf de Paris in Monte Carlo, the Prince of Wales ordered a special dessert for himself and his young female companion. The cook, Henri Carpentier, presented his new creation of flaming crepes with orange liqueur and it became an immediate hit with the two diners.

The future King Edward VII asked that the dish be named in honour of his lady friend and that, so the story goes, is how Crepes Suzette got its name. 

The history of food and famous dishes is generously garnished with interesting stories and facts like this, some from long ago and some from not that far back. In fact, earlier this year our very own prime minister was honoured in a culinary fashion by the owner of a restaurant in China.

Steve and Laureen Harper had just stopped by the Yi Wan Ju restaurant in Beijing for a photo op and a quick nosh when the whole thing went down.  By the time the PM opened his fortune cookie a tasty pork dish had already become his legacy. 

The PM was chowing down on a savoory combination of pork belly, pork hocks and pig knuckles when he decided to display some gastronomic flair. Our man in Beijing is obviously no stranger to a pair of chopsticks and he nimbly mixed the available ingredients in unheard of combinations.

At one point he took the meat out of the soup and dipped it into the mustard sauce – the PM likes his Dong Do Pork spicy. The owner of the restaurant was watching and later, he used what he saw as an inspiration to create a new dish which, roughly translated, is named  Harper’s Elbows. 

Not only that, the table, chairs and place settings where the prime minister and his wife were sitting have been turned into a kind of shrine.  Business is up 20 per cent. Way to go, Steve.

It is very common to name food after celebrities. For example, Chairman Mao developed a taste for red braised pork while living in his home province of Hunan. The dish is now known as Chairman Mao’s Pork and is served all over China. Who knows – Harper’s Elbows may someday be available at Tim Horton’s across Canada.

Centuries ago in 1447 or so, a Viennese baker wanted to pay a tribute to Emperor Frederick V and decided to bake bread rolls with his profile stamped on top. 

These days the image of the Emperor is hard to make out but Kaiser Rolls are still available at bake shops everywhere.

Back in 1889 Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans was having trouble finding French escargot and developed a new substitute dish consisting of baked oysters with a green sauce and bread crumbs.  The sauce was very rich so the dish was named after the richest man in the world and Oysters Rockefeller was born.

Our American friends love to name deli sandwiches after celebrities.  Big eaters might like to try a Tim Robbins. He created his own sandwich with high piles of corned beef, turkey, pastrami, roast beef and Swiss cheese – all designed to satisfy his six foot four inch frame.

Brooklyn boy Scott Baio (Chachi on Happy Days) was not to be outdone and designed his own hoagie with prosciutto di Parma, mozzarella, hot sopressata and basil.  As far as I can tell there is no Fonzie sandwich.

But there is a Hugh Hefner on the menu. The Hef is stacked with ham, turkey, chutney and pepperjack cheese.  Sorry boys, this one is not available on a Kaiser bunny.

The common man is also represented in food’s colourful history. Bing Cherries were developed by Seth Luelling and named for his Manchurian foreman, Bing.  Inventor Leo Hirschfield developed the first paper-wrapped candy roll and named it after his daughter “Tootsie.”

In 1920, a young man doing odd jobs and flirting with the girls at the Williamson Candy ¬Com¬pany was the inspiration for a new candy bar. 

For one reason or another someone was always calling his name, “Oh, Henry!” and the handyman would get the job done. 

The Oh Henry chocolate bar went on to become the King of Candy land.

They say you are what you eat.  Our prime minister has just been recognized for pounding down some fatty pork belly and pig knuckles with hot sauce. 

That is a special honour but what are we supposed to think about that?

Now there’s food for thought. 



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