Dining with Churchill

Westminster College President Barney Forsythe, Churchill author Cita Stelzer and National Churchill Museum Executive Director Rob Havers sit down to the same meal Winston Churchill was served at the college before giving his famous Sinews of Peace speech. Photo by Dean Asher of The Fulton Sun.

Westminster College President Barney Forsythe, Churchill author Cita Stelzer and National Churchill Museum Executive Director Rob Havers sit down to the same meal Winston Churchill was served at the college before giving his famous Sinews of Peace speech. Photo by Dean Asher of The Fulton Sun.

“It has become fashionable to honor (Winston) Churchill at commemorative events by duplicating the meals he was served.”  ~ “Dinner with Churchill, Policy-Making at the Dinner Table,” by Cita Stelzer

I recently experienced a Churchillian meal when I joined author Cita Stelzer, and a small group of others, for a lunch that duplicated the meal served to Winston Churchill when he delivered a speech at Westminster College in Fulton.

Churchill delivered the Sinews of Peace speech as a part of the John Findley Green lecture series. President Harry Truman, Missouri’s native son, also was present that day in 1946 when Churchill first stated that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” That phrase remains in our vocabulary more than 50 years later.

Westminster is home to the National Churchill Museum, which is housed below the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury. This 17th century London church, severely damaged during World War II, was moved to Fulton in the 1960s and restored brick by brick to the architect’s original specifications.

Stelzer has written a book about Churchill’s dinner-table diplomacy and has combed many archives to describe the meals at dinners where Sir Winston used “good food, excellent champagne and Havana cigars” to engage with others and cajole them to his point of view.  She was on campus at Westminster earlier this week for a book signing, and the school re-created the meal served to Churchill.

Like Sir Winston, we dined on Callaway ham (Fulton is in Callaway County), fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered corn and rolls. Angel food cake with strawberry topping followed as dessert. The records indicate the meal was served “family style.” Sir Winston was quite pleased with this meal, particularly the ham.

This amazing experience allowed me to sit with Stelzer and her husband, Irving; Westminster’s president Dr. Barney Forsythe and his wife, Jane; Dr. Rob Havers, executive director of the museum; and a few others to discuss Churchill lore. During the meal, we quizzed Stelzer on any and everything Churchill related, and she told of the wealth of stories she’d uncovered.

The college, the museum and library comprise a true gem, smack dab in the middle of Missouri. The campus has hosted many other players on the global stage, including former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev; former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; former president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Lech Walesa; and former U.S. presidents Truman and Ronald Reagan.

I also learned Westminster continues to be a player on the global stage, hosting an annual symposium that brings renowned experts in a chosen field to campus for two days. Themes have included global health, democracy, sustainability and religion.

I love history, so this was a true treat. While they don’t regularly serve the Iron Curtain speech lunch, I highly recommend you visit the campus and the museum. It’s so worth it.

Learn more at the National Churchill Museum’s website.