Today, December 1st …
There is a possibly apocryphal story that says that the ‘Declaration of the Three Powers’ in Iran was signed over a martini on this day in 1943. In this story, Stalin’s response to FDR’s offer of the drink was “Well, all right, but it is cold on the stomach.” Churchill was presumably offered one too, but his answer is not recorded – perhaps he refused and opted for his favourite tipple of brandy.
There is a long tradition of diplomatic decisions being negotiated or signed over a drink or dinner. A spectacular early example was the meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France at “The Field of the Cloth of Gold” in 1520, which almost emptied the coffers of both countries, although in the end achieved very little. Patrick Lamb, the chef to Queen Anne (1702-14) claimed that England’s “credit and esteem with foreign ministers” was founded on its impressive court banquets, and half a century later the Talleyrand (France’s Prime Minister) was in no doubt as to the importance of feeding well those with whom one wishes to negotiate.
Times have changed however, and the modern voter expects less conspicuous consumption to accompany the work of its elected representatives. There was a war on too, at the time of our story, so an even closer approximation to austerity would have been expected. FDR’s presidency was merely “the four martinis and lets have an agreement era”. At the tail end of the Vietnam conflict Nixon, Kissinger, and Chou En-lai signed the Shanghai Communique in 1972 over mai-tais. No-one so far has seen fit to blow the whistle on this cocktail diplomacy, but in that event, may I suggest a move to Pudding Diplomacy?
The martini has been called “America’s gift to the world”, although its exact origin and exact composition continue to be hotly debated. An equal mystery, but one less hotly debated (pudding cooks being more sanguine folks than cocktail drinkers perhaps) is the exact origin of “Diplomat Pudding”, or “Pouding à la Diplomate”. Its roots seem to be French, but the reason for its name is, to use dictionary-speak “obscure”. I welcome any suggestions or information, but in the meanwhile I offer a recipe from an American cookbook of 1893. It is “La Cuisine Française. French Cooking for Every Home. Adapted to American Requirements” by François Tanty. M.Tanty’s spelling and recipe clarity do leave something to be desired, but he could be expected to know about dinner-table diplomacy, as his qualifications are given as: ‘Late “Chef de Cuisine” of the Emperor Napoleon III and of the Imperial Family of Russia. Late proprietor of the “Grand Hotel” and the Restaurant Dussaux at St. Petersburg. Purveyor to the French and Russian Armies. Member of the Imperial Order of the Red Cross (Russia).’
Proportions: For five persons.
Raisins: Malaga 2 oz. Sultana 2 oz. Corinth 2 oz.
Lemon or orange peel 2 oz.
Lady Fingers* ¼ lb.
Cornstarch 1 tablespoonful
Milk 2 glassesful
Rum 1 or 2 tablespoonsful
Sugar 4 tablespoonsful.
1st In a cake-mould put a row of dried grapes (if possible, Malaga, Smyrna, or Corinth), and dices of preserved orange peel, then a row of lady fingers, then a row of grapes and so on, the last row being a row of lady fingers. Don’t fill the mould.
2nd. Make a sauce with 5 eggs, 1 tablespoonful corn starch, two glassesful milk, 1 or2 tablespoonsful rum, 4 tablespoonsful sugar, and mix the whole.
3rd. Pour this sauce in the mould, put in a bain-marie and bake in an oven (not too warm).
4th. Knock out the pudding on a dish and serve with a Sambayon [sic] sauce.
Proportions: For five persons:
Starch ½ tablespoonful [presumably he means Cornstarch]
Sugar 2 tablespoonfuls
Rum 1 tablespoonful
Cream 2 glassesfulTime - 10 minutes.
1st. In a sauce pan beat together 2 yolks, 1/2 tablespoonful corn starch, 2 tablespoonsful sugar, 1 tablespoonful rum, 2 glassesful cream till thick enough, and warm but don't allow it to boil.
2nd. Pour on the pudding.
*Lady fingers: may mean the dry plain cake used in trifle, or a variety of banana (in Australia); or okra; or a delicious nut, honey and fillo pastry similar to baklava.
In this recipe, please use the first. Okra would not be good.
Monday’s Story …
A Fighting Punch.
A Previous Story for this Day …
Raffles hotel in Singapore opened on this day in 1887, and was the subject of our story “Liquid Lunches” on this day in 2005.
Quotation for the Day …
The rat stops gnawing in the wood, the dungeon walls withdraw, the weight is lifted ... your pulse steadies and the sun has found your heart, the day was not bad, the season has not been bad, there is sense and even promise in going on. Bernard de Voto; In praise of the martini, The Hour.