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Eggs Benedict is a dish consisting of two halves of an English muffin, usually topped with smoked bacon or ham (sometimes known as back bacon, which in the USA is called Canadian bacon), poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce.
There are differing accounts as to the origin of eggs Benedict.
In an interview in the "Talk of the Town" column of The New Yorker in 1942, the year before his death, Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street stock broker, claimed that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894, hoping to find a cure for his morning hangover, and ordered "buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and a hooker of hollandaise". Oscar Tschirky, the maître d'hôtel and legendary "Oscar of the Waldorf", was so impressed with the dish that he put it on the breakfast and luncheon menus, but substituted ham and a toasted English muffin for the bacon and toast.
Craig Claiborne, in September 1967, wrote a column in The New York Times about a letter he had received from Edward P. Montgomery, an American then residing in France. In it, Montgomery related that the dish was created by Commodore E.C. Benedict, a banker and yachtsman, who died in 1920 at the age of 86. Montgomery also included a recipe for eggs Benedict, stating that the recipe had been given to him by his mother, who had received it from her brother, who was a friend of the Commodore.
Mabel C. Butler of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts in a November 1967 letter to the editor printed in The New York Times responded to Montgomery's claim by correcting that the "true story, well known to the relations of Mrs. Le Grand Benedict", of whom she was one, was:
- Mr. and Mrs. Benedict, when they lived in New York around the turn of the century, lunched every Saturday at Delmonico's. One day Mrs. Benedict said to the maitre d' hotel, "Haven't you anything new or different to suggest?" On his reply that he would like to hear something from her, she suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham, hollandaise sauce and a truffle on top.