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YESTERDAY Georgina Young chose kitchen service as scullery maid no. six in a fairly grand household. Today, she marries, learns from, and thrives with chef Paul Landemare. And has wartime adventures with Winston and Clementine Churchill.
Throughout, these tidbits are gleaned from Rosemary Hill’s “Ooh the Rubble,” a review of Annie Gray’s biography of Georgina Landemare in London Review of Books, July 16, 2020.
Paul Landemare. Hill notes that Paul Landemare, whom Georgina married in 1909, was a widower with six children and “came from a family of Parisian pâtissiers: the Landemares were listed in the Annuaire-almanach du Commerce in the 1880s.”
Georgina later said she “worked with and learned from” her husband. He died in 1932.
Changing Cuisine; a New Assignment. Dining habits of post-World War I England became less elaborate, but no less exacting in execution. Hill observes, “… simplicity, whether in the form of a perfect omelet or a Chanel suit, requires skill.”
Hill writes, “Among Landemare’s regular clients in the mid-1930s were Winston and Clementine Churchill.” The Churchills took on “Mrs Mar” in February 1940, less than a month after rationing started. Clementine was “enchanted… I knew she would make the best out of rations, and that everyone in the house would be happy.”
A Giant Kerfuffle. Hill relates a wartime tale: Landemare was “quite often to be found sitting in the kitchen ‘half an hour or so before a big dinner … with everything under control, reading the Sporting Life.’ ”
“In October 1940,” Hill continues, “this sangfroid nearly cost her her life. Churchill ran into the kitchen during an air raid and told her to get into the shelter, but Landemare, who was making a delicate pudding, refused: ‘If I’d’ve turned it out it’d’ve been no more – it was so light you see.’ Churchill insisted, and moments later the 25-foot plate-glass window at the back of the kitchen exploded into shards. ‘Ooh the rubble, terrible,’ she recalled. ‘He saved my life, I’m sure.’ ”
In Charge, Even Countering Churchill. Hill notes that Landemare “took a practical view of Winston’s peculiarities. If, as sometimes occurred, he ‘absent-mindedly wandered around stark naked’, she told him off and he would apologise.”
“On VE Day,” Hill recounts, “Churchill addressed the crowds from the balcony of the Ministry of Health. Landemare took a while to get up the stairs but when she did he broke away from the group, shook her hand and said he couldn’t have done it without her.”
Hill notes, “When Churchill himself stepped down in 1955, she returned to cook his grand farewell dinner.” Sir Winston Churchill died, age 90, in 1965. Georgina Landemare was 96 at her death in 1978. In 1985, the Cabinet War Rooms opened to the public; its recreated kitchen included Landemare’s copper pans. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020