The original Bananas Foster recipe was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé (1900-1977), the executive chef at Brennan’s in New Orleans. The dish was named in honor of Richard Foster, a regular customer and friend of restaurant owner Owen Brennan, Sr.
It is one of the flambé desserts that also include Crêpes Suzette and Cherries Jubilee. Savory dishes are also flamed at the table, from Steak Diane to Veal Marsala. Here’s a list of flambé recipes. Note, though, that the technique has long gone out of style.
But how did it come into style?
THE MODERN HISTORY OF FLAMBÉ FOOD
Flambé (it means flamed in French), is a cooking procedure in which alcohol is warmed and then added to a hot pan, where it is lit to create a burst of flames. The alcohol burns off shortly and the flames die out.
While the practice of igniting food for dramatic flair can be traced to 14th century Moors, modern flambéing became popular only in the late 19th century, and by accident.
According to his memoir, in 1895 at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo, 14-year-old Henri Charpentier (1880-1961), an assistant waiter, accidentally set fire to the liqueur in the pan of crêpes he was preparing. At the time, many foods were prepared tableside. The guests happened to be Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) and some friends. According to the memoir:
“It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought I was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I had every tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste.”
The dish was served, and the Prince liked it.
“He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crêpes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and holding her little skirt wide with her hands she made him a curtsey. ‘Will you,’ said His Majesty, ‘change Crêpes Princesse to Crêpes Suzette?’ Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a panama hat and a cane.”
SOURCE: Life A La Henri – Being The Memories of Henri Charpentier, by Henri Charpentier and Boyden Sparkes, The Modern Library, New York, 2001 Paperback Edition. Originally published in 1934 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Thanks to What’s Cooking America for the reference.