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Book Review – Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table by Cita Stelzer

Synopsis:  A colorful and eloquent look at Churchill, with fascinating new insights into the food he ate, the Champagne he loved, and the important guests he charmed. This delectable volume is a sumptuous and intellectual treat.

A friend once said of Churchill: He is a man of simple tastes; he is quite easily satisfied with the best of everything. But dinners for Churchill were about more than good food, excellent champagnes and Havana cigars.Everything included the opportunity to use the dinner table both as a stage on which to display his brilliant conversational talents, and an intimate setting in which to glean gossip and diplomatic insights and to argue for the many policies he espoused over a long life. In this riveting, informative and entertaining book, Stelzer draws on previously untapped material, diaries of guests, and a wide variety of other sources to tell of some of the key dinners at which Churchill presided before, during and after World War II.

First Line:  Dinner parties were an important means by which Churchill rewarded friends, won over rivals and gathered information on all subjects, from diplomatic secrets to social gossip.  He also hugely enjoyed them.

Random Quote:  “It is well to remember that the stomach governs the world,” wrote Churchill when planning the feeding of his troops on the north-west Indian frontier at the tail-end of the nineteenth century.

Review:  I think most readers have had exposure to World War II history.  Most of us have at least cursory knowledge of the big players – FDR, Churchill, Stalin.  I was attracted to Dinner with Churchill because of its subject matter – Churchill’s use of the dinner table to forward his policies.  We’re talking food here – and cocktails, and conversation!

Churchill at a dinner party (image source)

Churchill is an iconic figure.  His size, his cigars, his whiskey, his indomitable spirit.  He has always been a symbol of Britain’s steadfast resistance to the powers of fascism throughout the devastating affects of the War.  Churchill was, simply, a leader – a canny man with a broad grasp of history and an almost preternatural ability to predict possible futures based on a range of choices in any given situation.  He was a man of great consequence who used his personal charisma to keep his country free of Hitler‘s aggression.  He loved food and company and used his charisma in a very effective way – through dinner parties, luncheons, breakfasts, picnics – all opportunities for him to develop personal relationships with important figures on his staff, but also throughout the world.  His stamina was epic and the stories of these encounters with Churchill and food provide fascinating insight into his policy making strategies.

Dinner with Churchill is a journey through the major events of WWII from the perspective of the binding nature of shared meals.  If you love food, are interested in food history, in Churchill, in WWII or all or none of the above – this is a great and entertaining read.  It’ll also make you really hungry – plover’s eggs, anyone?

FTC Disclosure:  Copy from publisher for review via NetGalley

Publishing Information:  Pegasus Books – January 8, 2013

Format:  Kindle


Reading Challenges:  A to Z Reading Challenge, Foodies Read 2013, Non-Fiction/Non-Memoir Reading Challenge, What’s in a Name 6 Reading Challenge

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