Melba toast is a thin, crisp toast that is now packaged and sold in stores next to crisp breads and crackers. Auguste Escoffier, a friend of Swiss hotelkeeper Cesar Ritz and his wife, Marie Ritz, created it when Marie commented that she could never find thin enough toast. Escoffier originally called it "Toast Marie" after his friend's wife, but renamed it "Melba" toast when he was working with Cesar Ritz at London's Savoy Hotel and Dame Nellie Melba was staying there.
It was reported that singer Dame Nellie Melba ate the toast regularly when she was sick in 1897. Helen Porter Mitchell is the real name of Dame Nellie Melba, who formed the surname of her stage name from her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Peach Melba is another food that was named after the opera star. Apparently, Marie Ritz, understanding the hotel business, did not mind having the name of "Toast Marie" changed. After her husband Auguste died, Marie ran Paris's Ritz Hotel.
Nutritionally, Melba toast is usually low in fat, cholesterol and calories and is said to be a great source of the mineral manganese. It is often good for those on low sodium diets as unsalted versions are available. Cheese is a popular accompaniment to the toast, and together they form a complete protein source. Its neat, compact size makes it fun for appetizers, and toppings such as egg, hummus, shrimp, mushrooms and smoked salmon are just some of the delicious possibilities.
Cooks can make their own Melba toast using very thinly sliced bread that are flattened with a rolling pin. The crusts should be removed. Herbs such as dill and thyme can be mixed into butter and then spread onto both sides of the bread. The bread should be toasted for about 15 minutes at a 350°F (176.6°C) oven, turning once, until it is lightly browned.