September 26, 2013

Finest Hour 104, Autumn 1999

Page 42


Q: In the recipe for “Potatoes Anna” (FH 103), Barbara Langworth said she didn’t know who “Anna” was…

A: In Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2, I found this historical note about Pommes Anna: “It was created during the era of Napoleon III and named, as were many culinary triumphs in those days, after one of the grandes cocottes of the period. Whether it was an Anna Deslions, an Anna Judic, or simply Anna Untel, she has also immortalized the special double baking dish itself, la cocotte a pommes Anna, which…you can still buy…” –Clarence Martin

• Note: Mrs. Landemare baked the potatoes in an omelette pan, not the tightfitted, lidded pot or casserole mentioned in other recipes I’ve seen. -BFL

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Q: A visit to Chartwell torched my interest in Churchill’s library. I wanted to stay and look through the books. Is there an inventory or published bibliography of the books that he owned there at Chartwell—as well as those books that are still at Chartwell, but obviously not available for research? –Pat Walker

A: Unfortunately the books at Chartwell are mostly not books Sir Winston owned. His own collection was willed to his son Randolph, who sold off some and presented some to his son Winston, who has them still. (The ones Randolph sold regularly crop up on the secondhand market bearing Randolph’s bookplate and another plate reading “from the library of Sir Winston Churchill.”) Chartwell’s books today number many foreign language editions and duplicates, used to fill up shelves. I recall for example a row of the same issue of The Anglo-Saxon Review. However, many very fine books have been acquired by Chartwell over the years—notably displayed in the handsome glass fronted cabinet in the study. Also, The Churchill Center and Societies have provided the permanent exhibit of his books, many in dust jackets, in the display area located next to the kitchen as you leave the building at the end of your tour.

Q: Aside from the worthy archives at Churchill College Cambridge (from I I have recently received almost 150 copies of letters relating to one of my cousins, a friend of Sir Winston’s), what are some other major repositories/collections of Churchill correspondence, documents, etc. (unpublished)? –Pat Walker

A: Our website offers “Links” to various other sources of material, including Chartwell, the Cabinet War Rooms, the Beaverbrook Archives in Canada and the Churchill Memorial in Missouri. Other possibilities (which may have websites) are the Presidential Libraries (Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower) and, if you’re interested in his books, certain publishers archives. For instance, the Firestone Library at Princeton houses the Charles Scribner papers which include quite a lot of correspondence between Churchill and his major ‘tween-wars American publisher. Finally, check with the Churchill Archives at Cambridge for any leads they might provide in areas you are interested in; their holdings include the papers of a number of Churchill contemporaries, and they
undoubtedly know of other UK archives in allied areas.

GINNING THINGS UP

Q. Suzanne Sigman ([email protected]) brought our attention to the August 1999 issue of Food & Wine, which included an article, “The Gin Crowd” by Pete Wells, detailing gin’s discovery, early usage and current popularity. Suzanne quoted this passage, asking if Wells had it right:

“Churchill’s Choice:…One of the oldest English gins is Plymouth, which was created in 1791. One authority states that Plymouth was used to mix the first dry martini. It’s a controversial point, but Plymouth certainly became a martini standard. It was the gin preferred by Winston Churchill, who, when supplies of French vermouth ran short during World War II, would respectfully bow in the direction of France when mixing his drinks. Because I’m the kind of person who lies awake at night wondering what Winston Churchill’s martinis tasted like, I searched for Plymouth gin for years. Finally I concluded that the company that makes it must have gone out of business. But it turns out that Plymouth had simply been neglected. Until two years ago, that is, when a couple of British entrepreneurs bought the brand and brought it back to market. (It’s now available in [the USA] for the first time in twenty years). The new owners redesigned the bottle, but they haven’t changed the formula—which means that now I know what Churchill’s martinis were like. They were fantastic.”

A: We referred this story to Sir Winston’s grandson, who replied: “I never saw WSC drink gin, nor indeed CSC whose tipple, at least in later life, was Dubonnet. Have just bounced this one off Lady Soames, who thunders: Absolute b—s; and you may quote me! [But we will not!] Of course he would have had the odd Martini, especially when staying with the Roosevelts—FDR mixed a mean one—but he was certainly not a gin drinker by habit.'” So once again the media has it wrong and Food and Wine is contributing nonsense. 

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