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Serving Winston: The life and times of Georgina Landemare, Churchill’s longest-serving cook.
A Talk by Dr Annie Gray
Thursday 26th March 2020
There are around 1000 biographies of Winston Churchill, lauding his character and his deeds. Very few point out that it is much easier to be a leading statesman if you have someone behind you, picking up your pants. Winston had staff – his secretaries and assistants – and he also had servants, working below stairs. They weren’t invisible, then, and they shouldn’t be now.
Most people who have read anything much on the Churchills’ personal life will be familiar with some of the service staff who surrounded them: the secretaries are familiar figures, rolling their eyes at Winston’s casual nudity, staying up to the small hours to take dictation, and struggling, often, with the pace. Frank Sawyers, his wartime valet, is another frequent character, and the bodyguards left memoirs to be riffled for anecdotes. But beyond this, further below stairs, was another set of people, who didn’t write about their experiences, and played often only fleeting roles in the Churchills’ lives. This talk looks in detail at one, key, player in the domestic set up at Downing Street, Hyde Park Gate, Chequers and Chartwell: Georgina Landemare, the family’s longest-serving cook, whose life was intertwined with theirs for over 20 years.
Drawing on research for Annie’s forthcoming biography of Georgina, this talk will cover her life, and how she came to be the cook for one of the more significant kitchens in the country in 1940. It will also consider the food she cooked, the impact of rationing at No.10, and the relationship she had with her illustrious employers. We’ll talk plovers’ eggs and Boodles orange fool, but also look at the Creamola puddings and dried egg omelettes cooked for the staff. Mid-twentieth century food was a mixed bag.
Georgina’s food was lauded as ‘superb’ and ‘excellent’ by Churchill’s dinner companions, and the book she published, in 1958, is well worth rediscovering. The talk is both a celebration of a determined cook, and a reminder that behind every great man lies a woman who can make a mean custard.
Dr Annie Gray is one of Britain’s leading food historians. She is a writer, broadcaster and consultant, advising both on the history of food and dining, and the people and spaces associated with food. She’s been a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet since its inception in 2012, and appears regularly on TV (The Sweetmakers, Victoria & Albert: The Wedding etc).
Her first book, The Greedy Queen: eating with Victoria, was a culinary biography of Queen Victoria, and her next book, due to be published in spring 2020, is called Victory in the Kitchen: the life of Churchill’s Cook. She is also the author of The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook and From the Alps to the Dales: 100 years of Bettys.
7.45pm interval (20 minutes)
Second half, followed by Q&A
Talk ends at approximately 8.45pm, with a book signing to follow.
Tickets £12.50 per person
Please note seating is on a first come first served basis.
Cafe open from 5pm – 6pm (last orders) serving a selection of hot meals.
Hot & cold drinks, cakes & crisps will be available until the end of the interval from the cafe.
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