New book focuses on dining with Sir Winston Churchill

Museum wins award

Westminster College President Barney Forsythe, Churchill author Cita Stelzer and National Churchill Museum Executive Director Rob Havers sit down Wednesday to the same meal Winston Churchill was served at the college before giving his famous Sinews of Peace speech. Stelzer visited the college to promote her new book "Dinner With Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table."

Westminster College President Barney Forsythe, Churchill author Cita Stelzer and National Churchill Museum Executive Director Rob Havers sit down Wednesday to the same meal Winston Churchill was served at the college before giving his famous Sinews of Peace speech. Stelzer visited the college to promote her new book "Dinner With Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table." Photo by Dean Asher.

Even busy statesmen have to eat.

Sir Winston Churchill was no exception, but he wasn’t one to let a simple thing like dinner with Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin get in the way of his work.

Author Cita Stelzer discovered this for herself when researching her new book, “Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table” which she promoted at Westminster College in Fulton with a book signing Wednesday.

The book details Churchill’s use of the dinner table as a diplomacy desk during World War II.

Prior to the signing, Stelzer was part of an intimate dinner with National Churchill Museum Executive Director Rob Havers, Westminster College President Barney Forsythe and others that recreated the meal Churchill had before giving his famous Iron Curtain speech here in 1946.

She said the traditional Callaway County dinner of cured ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and corn likely stood out as a favorite.

“If he were to design the perfect meal, he’d have smoked salmon or a clear turtle soup — he hated creamy soups for some reason — and a simple food like roasted chicken and a plain potato,” said Stelzer. “He only mentioned green vegetables once that I found, and it was as a joke. For dessert, he’d have had ice cream and a pear.”

When Churchill ate at Westminster at the college president’s former home, he was at a table with about four or six other guests — including President Truman — among a dining hall that seated 60 other people such as party members, trustees and faculty. Stelzer said that simpler dishes served a diplomatic purpose for Churchill.

“For political dinners, he didn’t want conversation about the food,” said Stelzer. “He wanted it to be about matters of the day.”

That’s not to say Churchill wasn’t a fan of flourish. Stelzer said that at some meals he would have oranges at every table — a rare commodity during wartime rationing — and noted that flowers were also used as a centerpiece, so long as they were low enough that he could see over them.

Cigars and wine were often a staple for his important guests as they made critical decisions shaping the fate of the war. These decisions lead Stelzer to research and write on a topic as small but vital as the statesman’s dinners.

“It occurred to me that it might be interesting to look into the details of the many dinners that Churchill organized and attended,” she wrote in the prologue.

“His curiosity led him to want to know, first-hand, what his negotiating partners were like; his self-confidence lead him to believe that face-to-face meetings, the less formal the better, were the perfect occasions in which to deploy his skills. And his fame enabled him to bring together the best brightest and most important players of the day.”

Churchill Museum wins award

The National Churchill Museum in Fulton and the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society have been named recipients of the 2013 Missouri Humanities Award for Exemplary Community Achievement. The award will be presented Wednesday in Jefferson City.

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