Melba toast is a very dry, crisp and thinly sliced toast often served with soup and salad or topped with either melted cheese or pâté. It is named after Dame Nellie Melba, the stage name of Australian opera singer Helen Porter Mitchell. Its name is thought to date from 1897, when the singer was very ill and it became a staple of her diet. The toast was created for her by chef and fan Auguste Escoffier, who also created the Peach Melba dessert for her. The hotel proprietor César Ritz supposedly named it in a conversation with Escoffier.
Melba toast is usually made by lightly toasting bread in the normal way of making toast. Once the outside of the bread is slightly firm, it is removed from the toaster and then each slice is cut laterally with a bread knife to make two slices that are half the original thickness of the bread. These two thin slices are then toasted again to make Melba toast. Melba Toast is also available commercially, and was at one time used to give infants who were teething a hard food substance to chew on.
In 1925, the Mayo Brothers prescribed the “Eighteen Day Reducing Diet” to Ethel Barrymore. It included Melba toast, which made the toast very popular at the time. Melba toast can also be used to make stuffing or dressing.