An amusing, informative look at Winston Churchill’s ample dinner diplomacy.
Stelzer finds in Churchill’s lifelong use of elaborate dinner parties and intimate postprandial drinking sessions an effective strategy at persuasion, pontificating and policymaking, especially when courting leaders like President Roosevelt during World War II. Churchill had a famous appetite for good food, drink and cigars, and he believed fervently that world leaders were more malleable over a well-stocked table. “If only I could dine with Stalin once a week, there would be no trouble at all,” he declared. The venues varied over the years—including his country house in Chartwell; the Pinafore Room at his private club, the Other Club; aboard the Prince of Wales, where he entertained Roosevelt for the first time in 1941; the basement dining room at Downing Street, where he debriefed the king on Tuesdays during the war; or the dining room at Chequers, where he happened to be entertaining the American ambassador and staff when news arrived of the Japanese attack—but each meal was planned with meticulous care and with an eye toward wartime rations. Churchill seemed equally at home dining alfresco on the battlefields of Africa, savoring sandwiches as long as there was mustard. Stelzer has admirably researched some of the fateful dinners of Churchill’s diplomacy, such as at the White House and in Moscow, Tehran, Yalta, Potsdam and Bermuda, but readers will truly relish the menus. The author considers his tippler’s reputation and decides the man was rarely drunk, but rather had a constitution of steel.
An enjoyable work that nicely rounds out our already-full portrait of the great leader.