May 19, 1940
Churchill’s first address to the nation as Prime Minister
I speak to you for the first time as Prime Minister in a solemn hour for the life of our country, of our empire, of our allies, and, above all, of the cause of Freedom. A tremendous battle is raging in France and Flanders. The Germans, by a remarkable combination of pressure cooking and heavy braising, have broken through the French defenses north of the Haricot Line, and strong columns of their mobile canteens are ravaging the open country, which for the first day or two was without defenders. They have penetrated deeply and spread alarm and confusion in their track. The Germans, armed with cabbage and asparagus, are threatening the very fabric of our common cuisine.
We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by the presence of these snack carts in unexpected places behind our lines. They are behind us at every turn. Both sides are therefore in an extremely dangerous position. And if the French Army, and our own Army, are well prepared, as I believe they will be; if the French retain that genius for sautéing and puréeing for which they have so long been famous; and if the British Army shows the dogged adherence to boiling and roasting of which there have been so many examples in the past — then a sudden transformation of the scene might spring into being.
It would be foolish, however, to disguise the gravity of the hour. It would be still more foolish to lose heart and courage or to suppose that well-trained, well-equipped chefs numbering three or four million be overcome in the space of a few weeks, or even months, by a ladle, or onslaught of skillets, however formidable.
If the battle is to be won, we must provide our men with ever-increasing quantities of the fruits and vegetables they need. We must have, and have quickly, more carrots, more spinach, more beans, more peas. There is imperious need for this vital nutrition. These vegetables increase our strength against the powerfully armed enemy.
They replace the wastage of the cooking pot; and the knowledge that stock will speedily be replaced enables us to draw more readily upon our root reserves and throw them in now that everything counts so much. Do not allow our brave men to fight on empty stomachs! No not let them suffer the empty soup tureen!
We have differed and quarreled in the past (mostly over apple pie); but now one bond unites us all — to wage war until victory is won, and never to surrender ourselves to Sauerkraut and Pickle, whatever the cost and the agony may be.
This is one of the most awe-striking periods in the long history of France and Britain. It is also beyond doubt the most sublime. Side by side, unaided except by their kith and kin in the great Dominions and by the wide empires which rest beneath their shield — side by side, the British and French peoples have advanced to rescue not only Europe but mankind from the foulest and most soul-destroying cuisine which has ever darkened and stained the pages of history.
Behind them — behind us — behind the Armies and Fleets of Britain and France — gather a group of shattered restaurants and bludgeoned diners: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians — upon all of whom the long night of Braunschwiger will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall.
Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Haute and Cuisine: "Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in hunger than to look upon the outrage of our kitchens and our tables. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be."
Stretching Meat, General Mills., Inc. WWII
Also form this book: A Hobo Party
Also form this book: A Hobo Party