The Monte Cristo also (probably) originated in L.A., at the Brown Derby, gaining wider popularity in the 1960s when the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland started serving it. The Monte Cristo in question is almost certainly the Count thereof, from the Dumas novel. That’s a literary source to some extent, but you just know that the guy who came up with name had seen the movie rather than read the book.
Junior’s, a landmark deli in L.A.’s Westwood neighborhood, serves up sandwiches named after showbiz awards: the Grammy, the Emmy, the Golden Globe and, first on the list, the Oscar, which is actually a not especially exciting beef-and-cheese combo. Naturally, the origins of the name “Oscar” for the statuette itself are fiercely debated. One story has Bette Davis naming it after her first husband, another has a secretary in the Academy Awards office saying the statuette reminded her of her Uncle Oscar. Either way, award and sandwich remain linked.
Of course, all this gives a man an urge to become eponymous himself, and I’ve been wondering what food I might put my name to. I may not be a star but I do live in Hollywood. I have been known to make a sandwich involving whole-grain bread smeared with Marmite, then filled with curried cottage cheese. My wife tells me that’s a dish that should not dare to speak its name, but I’d be happy to call it the Nicholson. However knowing how these things work, if it catches on at all, people will probably think it’s named after Jack Nicholson. Worse still, it might get reduced to the (infinitely undignified) sloppy Geoff. “Geoff who?” people will ask. Well, now you’ll be able to tell them.
Geoff Nicholson is a writer in Los Angeles. His books include the novel The Food Chain and the nonfiction Lost Art of Walking. His previous articles for Gourmet Live include “Recipes for Disaster,” and “Funny Food.”