Here is passage from The Cellar Key (1933) by T Earle Welby* which everyone who dines out should commit to memory.
‘…The corks of the opened bottles have been carefully examined, and smelled, after cutting off the tops, which may seem mouldy without the rest of the cork or the wine in any but a sound state. A spoonful of each wine has been tasted, with an olive-cleansed palate. The host is satisfied: the guests will be.
But let the guests know, by inscription in the margin of the menu or by word of mouth, what wines are to be offered them. I appeal, in the divine name, to hosts and hostesses not to let a maid wander around a table asking, “White or Red?” White what? And red what? Is the choice between an honest white Graves and an equally honest red Graves, or between the former and Kangaroo Burgundy? In any event, why should such a choice be offered one? No vinously educated person can possibly want to drink red wine of any kind with the fish, or, having therefore chosen white, to be condemned to white for the whole meal.
However, the crimes against wine committed in the house are as nothing to those in which the unconscious criminal does his horrid deeds at a restaurant. To ask guests what they will drink is a stupid abdication of the position of host, a position with higher duties than that of paying the bill. They may know what they would severally take to drink, though in an average English party three-fourths of them will not; but, even if they do, they each will hesitate to avow a preference which might send the host beyond his estimate. It is for the host to choose, and in advance of the arrival of his guests. He knows, as his guests cannot, on what scale he had conceived of the entertainment; or, if he does not, he should have bidden his friends to some restaurant with which he was better acquainted. It is for him to take complete charge; to order both food and wine before his friends arrive ; to spare the party the evil ten minutes during which its members would otherwise gape at menu and wine- list…’
Found – two signed handwritten letters from John Fothergill author of An Innkeeper’s Diary. He was the proprietor of The Spreadeagle in Thame, the ‘inn’ he managed to make a cult destination during the 1920s and 30s. To quote travel blogger Ian Weightman:
‘In its heyday, The Spreadeagle near Oxford became a mecca for holiday makers, and the great and the good of the country. Many people booked to stay or dine there, purely because of Fothergill’s notoriety. But many others – including a “glitterati” of writers, actors, artists and heads of state – arrived as a result of the hotel’s widespread reputation as one of the best in the land… Fothergill was not only an illustrious innkeeper, but also an outstanding chef, connoisseur of wine, and an early campaigner for “Real Food”’.
The letters are to the writer Guy Chapman (author of the WW1 account A Passionate Prodigality and husband of Margaret Storm Jameson, English journalist and author.) They were associated with the writer’s organisation PEN – hence Fothergill asking for advice about republishing a gardening book he had written in 1927 (The Gardener’s Colour Book -now quite collectable.) The first letter is from the Spreadeagle and the second from his inn in Market Harborough which he ran from 1934 to 1952. Anybody writing a biography of Fothergill in the future would appreciate these letters, but when they are sold they tend to disappear – so following the original Jot mission we are recording them here. Continue reading →
Here is a signed photo of that amazing woman, Frances Willard ( no relation of Dolf !!), an icon of American feminism, who almost single – handedly organised the suffragist movement in the States from the mid nineteenth century until her comparatively early death (probably partly from sheer hard work) in 1898 aged 58. As a committed proto-Socialist and president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) for 19 years she lobbied on an enormous range of progressive social issues, including the voting rights of all women over the age of 21, federal aid for education, free school lunches, unions for workers, an eight-hour working day, municipal sanitation, national transportation, anti-rape laws and protections against child abuse. On the issue of female suffrage she argued that women could only be safe from male violence in their own homes if they were seen as ‘companions and counsellors of men’ rather than their playthings.
Willard made several tours of the UK to promote her ideals and it was probably on one of these appearances in October 1895 that she signed as ‘your affectionate sister’ this mass-produced photo of herself. Three years later she was dead. [R.R.]
Found among a large collection of menus printed at the turn of the nineteenth century by the high class Cambridge printer W.P.Spalding is this menu for the annual ‘Agamemnon Dinner’ of the famous Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club, which was held at King’s College on 27th November 1900.
A copy of this particular menu, signed by some who attended the Dinner, is in the King’s College archives. It shows that the medievalist M.R.James, a good amateur actor who enjoyed reciting his famous ghost stories at ADC events, was present at the Dinner, along with A.A.Milne, then in his Fresher year. All the menus reflect the high gastronomical standards of the various Cambridge colleges at that time, but the dishes on offer at the Agamemnon Dinner seem particularly delicious.
James and Milne could choose from starters that included Potage Dauphine served with an amontillado, Turbot boulli, sauce crevettes and filet de sole a la Villeroi which came with a liebfraumilch, perdrix aux choux, or petites timbales a la Royale, which were served with a 1894 Champagne Irroy.
The main courses consisted of Boeuf pique a la Godard, Oison Roti, sauce aux pommes, celery a l’Espagnoles, haricots verts, pommes de terre en croquettes et Oakley.
Or they might prefer Langue de Boeuf a la Ecarlate with puree d’Epinards.
Dessert number one came in the form of ‘Pouding A.D.C.’ or Bavarois au Curacao.
Then there were liqueurs offered with Glace au pain bis a la Jamaique..
Then, rather bizarrely, came Croutes d’ Anchois ( marinated fish towards the end of a meal; I wonder if this was ever popular). And finally, another Dessert (not specified), after which came port and coffee.
Personally, I could happily scoff the lot—apart from the anchovies, obviously, although I’d want to know what potato croquettes ‘et Oakley’ exactly meant. [RR]
From "As We Like it" Recipes by Famous People edited by Kenneth Downey (Arthur Barker, London 1950.) Famous people included Joyce Grenfell, Georgette Heyer, Leslie Charteris, Douglas Fairbanks, Christopher Fry, Celia Johnson Vivian Leigh, Richard Mason, Charles Morgan, Ivor Novello Laurence Olivier, Wilfred Pickles, Freya Stark, Richard Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt ,Katherine Hepburn, Enid Blyton and Clementina Churchill. The book has a forward by Edwina Mountbatten of Burma and she writes that every penny from the sale of the book will go to the funds of the Returned Prisoners of War Association. There is much mention of rationing and tinned food but Evelyn Waugh goes for an extravagant and slightly incapacitating mulled wine in full Brideshead fashion.
Mulled Claret (for six persons)
Take six bottles of red wine (it would be improper to use really fine Bordeaux, but the better the wine, the better the concoction.) Any sound claret or burgundy will do. 1 cup full of water; 2 port glasses of brandy; 1 port glass of ginger wine; 1 orange stuffed with cloves; peel of two lemons; 3 sticks of cinnamon; one grated nutmeg.
Heat in covered cauldron. Do not allow to simmer. Serve hot and keep hot on the hob. Should be drunk at the same temperature as tea.
To be drunk during and after luncheon in February or after dinner on any winter evening.
Enid Blyton's recipe is for a fairly simple and economical Cherry Cake for the children…
This is a cake my own children love, and is easy to make when children come to tea.
Half pound of margarine. 3 eggs. 6 ounces castor sugar.6 ounces cherries. 6 ounces flour. A few drops of vanilla essence.
Method: Beat the margarine and sugar till soft and creamy, drop in eggs one by one and beat well in between each. Add flour gradually, and lastly cherries and flavouring. If too stiff, add a little milk. Bake in a moderate oven to start, and then drop to Regulo 3. It takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to bake.
This is just as nice with fruit instead of cherries, or ginger cut up it is excellent.
Half the quantity makes a nice little cake for tea, but only takes 3/4 to 1 hour to cook.