07 February 2019 13:30
The British Council has apologised to George Orwell after rejecting an essay of his seven decades ago. But the council, which promotes British relations with other countries, told Orwell it would be "unwise to publish it for the continental reader". The editor acknowledges it is an "excellent" essay, but "with one or two minor criticisms" - including that Orwell's recipe for orange marmalade contained "too much sugar and water". In the essay, Orwell describes the British diet as "a simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous diet" and where "hot drinks are acceptable at most hours of the day". He added: "Over 70 years later, the British Council is delighted to make amends for its slight on perhaps the UK's greatest political writer of the 20th Century, by re-producing the original essay in full - along with the unfortunate rejection letter." The British Council has apologised to George Orwell more than 70 years after it rejected a famous essay by the renowned author - including his recipe for the perfect marmalade.
The essay, entitled In Defence of English Cooking, had been commissioned by the council in 1946 but they subsequently refused to publish it. Mr Orwell, famous for 1984 and Animal Farm, was told that it would be 'unwise to publish it' so soon after the hungry winter of 1945 and wartime rationing. George Orwell (left), famous for 1984 and Animal Farm, had been commissioned by the British Council in 1946 but they subsequently refused to publish it. He begins by noting that: 'One may say that the characteristic British diet is a simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous diet.' Before going on to say that: 'It is the diet of a wet northern country where butter is plentiful and vegetable oils are scarce, where hot drinks are acceptable at most hours of the day, and where all the spices and some of the stronger-tasting herbs are exotic products.' The second main section of his essay touches on how breakfast is 'not a snack but a serious meal.' And that it typically consists of three courses, one of which is a meat course. He then notes that: 'The actual diet of the richer and poorer classes in Britain does not vary very greatly, but they use a different nomenclature and time their meals differently.' Before going on to debate the various different foods people have for lunch and dinner - including the British roast.
Alasdair Donaldson, British Council senior policy analyst, said: "It seems that the organisation in those days was somewhat po-faced and risk-averse, and was anxious to avoid producing an essay about food (even one which mentions the disastrous effects of wartime rationing) in the aftermath of the hungry winter of 1945." He added: "Over 70 years later, the British Council is delighted to make amends for its slight on perhaps the UK's greatest political writer of the twentieth century, by re-producing the original essay in full - along with the unfortunate rejection letter." The letter explains that there have been some concerns over writing about food and apologises to Orwell for commissioning him for such an essay when it could not be published. But he did face criticism for his orange marmalade recipe which had "too much sugar and water". Orwell was paid 30 guineas for the piece, and the British Council told him they would hold no rights in the essay, telling him they hoped he would publish it elsewhere. His essay defends British cooking, explaining "the characteristic British diet is a simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous diet, drawing much of its virtue from the excellence of the local materials, and with its main emphasis on sugar and animal fats".