December 30, 2022

The Art of Being Winston Churchill: Dining with Stalin


Winston Churchill’s singular capacity for food, alcohol, and dinner conversation was tested to its limits in August 1942 when Joseph Stalin, having turned on his guest viciously during their final official meeting in Moscow, agreed at the last minute to see Churchill just once more before he departed. After an hour’s talk, Stalin unexpectedly invited Churchill back to his own apartment for drinks.

A six-hour dinner ensued, from 8:30 pm until 2:30 the next morning, all apparently improvised on the spur of the moment. “Gradually more and more food arrived,” Churchill would recall. “We pecked and picked, as seemed to be the Russian fashion, at a long succession of choice dishes, and sipped a variety of excellent wines.” Churchill’s stamina at the dining table proved in this instance a saving grace. By the night’s end, he and Stalin were friends again.

Barry Singer is proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City and author of Churchill Style (2012). For more about Churchill’s relations with Russia, see the upcoming issue of Finest Hour.

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