The great oenophile and gastronome T. Earle Welby had sound and sensible, if occasionally harshly expressed, views on what to eat with wine. Here are some of his opinions taken from the brilliant Cellar Key (1933).
‘With the exception of Champagne, which is never better than when taken in the forenoon, and Sherry, which is highly adaptable, all wines need, for full enjoyment, to be accompanied or immediately preceded by food. It is thus an important part of connoisseurship to know the affinities and antipathies between particular wines and food.
To begin with the enemies of all wine whatsoever, almost all hors d’oeuvres are inimical. To a great extent they consist of smoked, pickled, or highly condimented articles, and are therefore bound to blur the palate. But there is nothing to be said against plain melon, caviare, or oysters. Genuine Chablis is proverbially most enjoyable with oysters; and all the fine white Burgundies…will accord excellently with oysters, as indeed with crab or lobster or fish of any kind. But unless melon or caviare or oysters be selected, it is wise to eliminate hors d’oeuvres on a serious vinous occasion, and simply have Spanish olives in brine put on the table as a preliminary, and kept there till the meal is at an end.
Egg dishes are usually not favourable to the enjoyment of wine, for eggs very often have more a less a sulphurous flavour, and though this may hardly matter when one is drinking the baser, over-sulphured white wines of Bordeaux, it is very harmful to all delicate wines. Continue reading
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…’
*See an earlier jot on Welby – author of the classic food book The Dinner Knell (1932). [RR]
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
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.
We were sent this interesting reminiscence by a jotwatcher (thanks JWB). He points out that our 'I once met' posts depend on one having met a famous person. Many people have never met anyone famous - but almost everybody has met someone with a good story about someone well known that they had met - the 'I danced with a man, who danced with a girl, who danced with the Prince of Wales' phenomenon.* This greatly opens up the field so please send more in...
I was at university with a guy who became an acclaimed professional cook. At one point in the late 1980s he was cooking for Lord Weinstock at his country mansion in Wiltshire. Lord Weinstock (1925-2002) was a billionaire entrepreneur and built the General Electric Company into one of Britain's leading industrial conglomerates. He remembers Lord W (a sort of Alan Sugar of his time but with much increased sophistication) leaving for work some days in a private jet and then seeing him on the news addressing politicians in Europe and then seeing him chauffeured back up the drive in time for supper. He had a fine wine cellar and was especially fond of Cheval Blanc vintages which he would drink with ice. I said this seemed like a faux pas and a waste of wine (red and £600+ a bottle) but my culinary pal said that in matters of taste there were no rules and he couldn't possibly comment…
*What did he say? 'Topping floor!'