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Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the…

Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table (edition 2013)

by Cita Stelzer

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515229,653 (3.29)4
Title:Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table
Authors:Cita Stelzer
Info:Pegasus (2013), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, E-book, Review copies, Read but unowned
Tags:ARC, NetGalley

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Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table: The Prime Minister's Tabletop Diplomacy by Cita Stelzer


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Dinner with Churchill was a pretty delightful look at Churchill’s idiosyncrasies, love of food, mannerisms and foibles. I’d read certain accounts of the meetings and conferences of the allies but this was a new experience. Instead of Churchill the leader, the politician, we see Churchill in a light he certainly seemed to thrive under: Churchill the schmoozer, the socialiser, the conversationalist.

Ranging from recounted stories to notes made on menus or housekeeper’s instructions, the captured moments in Dinner with Churchill show that even in wartime, Churchill could make a dinner party lively and full of debate. More seriously, however, Churchill was able to use this dinner party negotiation to arrange concessions or persuade Roosevelt and Stalin to agree to his ideas with a confidence the boardroom didn’t allow.

Churchill’s confidence has always astounded me. Knowing his fight with depression, his ‘Black dog’, it is quite astounding that he achieved so much. To know that he could also play the entertainer, to charm and convince people, and to see this glimpse of the more private Churchill, at the dinner table rather than the parliamentary benches, was a quite fascinating – albeit at times slightly dry – experience.

A great read if you have any interest in Churchill and/or this period of 20th century history.

**I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation and all views are my own.** ( )
  donnambr | Nov 26, 2014 |
Given the strong reviews for this book, I found it rather superficial. There were very few anecdotes or good stories - mostly just material you'd already know if you've read any other books on Churchill. The author should be commended for trying a new angle, and for debunking the impression that Churchill was recklessly drunk much of the time, but it could have had a lot more of his personality in it. ( )
  NellieMc | Jun 27, 2013 |
This is a right royal feed! Two hugely important subjects in one – Sir Winston Churchill and feeding! Cita Stelzer is a freelance editor and journalist, but worked in politics for John Lindsay, mayor of New York and Governor Hugh Carey, before becoming a reader at Churchill College, Cambridge; and a director of the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum, and her book follows Churchill’s “table-top” diplomacy efforts, their successes and failures.

Eminently readable with some great photographs – particularly of our favorite (and it would seem of his too!) room at Chartwell, the charming green and white dining room – the book chronologically follows the great man’s war years efforts to reach-out to friends and foes with his great humour, talk and amazing appetites, for food, wines, cigars and life.

(Don’t forget his mustard though!)
1 vote John_Vaughan | Apr 19, 2013 |
I think most readers have had exposure to World War II history. Most of us have at least cursory knowledge of the big players - FDR, Churchill, Stalin. I was attracted to Dinner with Churchill because of its subject matter - Churchill's use of the dinner table to forward his policies. We're talking food here - and cocktails, and conversation!

Churchill is an iconic figure. His size, his cigars, his whiskey, his indomitable spirit. He has always been a symbol of Britain's steadfast resistance to the powers of fascism throughout the devastating affects of the War. Churchill was, simply, a leader - a canny man with a broad grasp of history and an almost preternatural ability to predict possible futures based on a range of choices in any given situation. He was a man of great consequence who used his personal charisma to keep his country free of Hitler's aggression. He loved food and company and used his charisma in a very effective way - through dinner parties, luncheons, breakfasts, picnics - all opportunities for him to develop personal relationships with important figures on his staff, but also throughout the world. His stamina was epic and the stories of these encounters with Churchill and food provide fascinating insight into his policy making strategies.

Dinner with Churchill is a journey through the major events of WWII from the perspective of the binding nature of shared meals. If you love food, are interested in food history, in Churchill, in WWII or all or none of the above - this is a great and entertaining read. It'll also make you really hungry - plover's eggs, anyone? ( )
  kraaivrouw | Feb 17, 2013 |
Dinner with Churchill, is a delightful look at one of the world's most powerful figures. Volumes have been written about Winston Churchill: his official biography with all the relatives, his education, his life adventures in the military, as a journalist and as a politician; his philosophy; his politics, etc. In this book, Cita Stelzer chooses to present Churchill in one of his most eloquent and oft experienced roles - at the dinner table. In fact, the sub-title, Policy Making at the Dinner Table explains her focus perfectly.

Spotlighting Churchill's diplomatic conferences and meals during the World War II period, she takes us to the sight of many meetings of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin as they planned and executed their countries' responses to Germany's ongoing military attacks. Many of these gatherings included the top military and diplomatic minds of the day. She quotes heavily from notes made by personal secretaries and aides, by translators, and then gives us even more insight from butlers, cooks and housekeepers.

We are shown the elegant printed menus from events such as the secret meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt on the USS Augusta off the coast of Newfoundland in August 1941; we catch glimpses of personal railroad cars, small intimate dining rooms, large dining tables both circular and rectangular. We visit the White House where Churchill stayed for several weeks after Pearl Harbor, spending Christmas with the Roosevelts (somewhat to Eleanor''s chagrin I suspect), meeting Stalin in Moscow in August 1942, traveling and dining in Adana, Tehren, Potsdam, Yalta, and Bermuda. In each visit, Selzer shows us the preparations, the meal, and the personalities attending.

After these chapters, she then focuses on the food itself (and Churchill's predilection for beef), the wines (particularly Churchill's love of champagne,) the signature cigars, and the whole subject of rationing. She also gives the reader a clear understanding of Churchill's background so that we come to see how Winston viewed good food and camaraderie as a part of the diplomatic life. At the same time, we see a Prime Minister who is emphatic about making sure that he is gathering and using ration coupons to obtain needed items, making substitutions if the course he wants is not available, and making sure that the ordinary people of Great Britain share equally in the food that is available. Of course, he accepts gifts from friends and admirers (even the King sent him some birds shot on his estate). In the end, however, Churchill never allows his preferences for good food and wine to interfere with the main emphasis of his dinner parties: that of good conversation, bonhomie, and choosing the correct mix of people to meet and become better acquainted. The food and wine acted simply as the fuel to stoke the engine of his hospitality.

This is a short, enjoyable book that gives the reader a touch of history, an insight into a fascinating giant of public life, and some interesting menus not normally seen by Americans in this day and age. It's certainly worth the read. The photographs of the dining scenes, the menus, and the historic figures add much to the enjoyment of the read. ( )
1 vote tututhefirst | Jan 14, 2013 |
Showing 5 of 5
[Cita] Stelzer's main theme is what she calls Churchill's "table-top diplomacy," his "use of dinner parties and meals to accomplish what he believed could not always be accomplished in the more formal setting of a conference room." Though aware that the policies of nations are ultimately decided by self-interest, not by friendship, he still considered personal contact essential in building trust among leaders. The book chronicles his successes and failures in this regard.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Henrik Bering (Jan 15, 2013)
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A colorful and eloquent look at Churchill as he has never been seen before. With fascinating new insights into the food he ate, the champagne he loved, and the important guests he charmed, this delectable volume is a sumptuous and intellectual treat.

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