How to dine like Churchill

As for his food, Churchill had simple tastes, Stelzer says.

“Churchill liked plain simple food, perfectly cooked,” she explained.

“No French sauces, no fancy pies, no concoctions. I would guess his favorite meal would be smoked salmon, roast chicken and potatoes. For desert, a pear and his beloved Stilton. And perhaps some ice cream.”

Stelzer spoke at length with TheDC about her book, how Churchill dealt with the food rationing in Britain during World War II, and whether he was as big a drinker as legend suggests:

Why did you decide to write the book?

Churchill dined with virtually all of the decision-makers of his long life – people like Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Stalin, De Gaulle and British and American generals and politicians. At those dinners policy questions were discussed and decisions made that affected the course of history. I was fortunate to find at the Churchill Archives, Churchill College, in Cambridge, U.K., many of the original menus, as well as unpublished diaries and letters, by those present, describing the dinners, lunches and picnics.

Did Churchill see dinners as primarily for business or pleasure?

Churchill was always working – lunches and dinners were for the business of making policy. He expected his guests to inform him and he hoped to influence them, convincing them of the correctness of his policies. That is not to say that he did not enjoy these events – he did, thoroughly. But above all, he was working. It was the conversation that mattered and the information shared, opinions aired.

How involved was he with choosing the menu and guests for his dinners?

In all cases in which he was the host, Churchill developed guest lists and supervised almost every detail of seating, menu selection and pacing. For the “big” official dinners with the presidents and Stalin, Churchill, as prime minister, was involved in every detail: He amended menus, arranged seating and worried, for example, where the interpreters would be placed — between the participants or slightly behind? At Potsdam, Churchill decided that he wanted 28 people at his official dinner. So he had his sappers build a round table and used his staff as guinea pigs to see that each diner had ample room for his elbows – but not too much room or conversation would be awkward. For that reason, he preferred a round table.