In 1946, just after the end of the Second World War, George Orwell submitted a culinary essay to the British Council called British Cookery, which he aimed to serve as a defence for the “slightly barbarous” diet of the Brits. The British Council, despite enjoying Orwell’s essay, opted not to publish it as Britain was still on rationing following the war and felt the timing wasn’t right. Now, more than 70 years after it was originally submitted, an arts foundation in England has released the essay, along with the very nice rejection letter he received for it.
As ABC News reports, the essay included recipes for dishes, some of which were deemed too extravagant for post-war Britain. One of the editor’s notes points out Orwell’s recipe for orange marmalade requires “too much sugar and water.” Orwell also includes recipes for Welsh rarebit, treacle tart, and Christmas pudding. The newly published piece has been released with a letter called ‘With Apologies to Mr. Orwell.’
The council has also published the rejection letter Orwell received, which explains how the publishers liked his work but felt it would be “unfortunate and unwise to publish it.”
The British Council now says it’s pleased to publish the letter, stating: “When people overseas talk about the cultural assets of the United Kingdom, its cuisine tends to come fairly low down on a list that is dominated by education, arts, science, music and more,” British Council senior policy analyst Alasdair Donaldson said in a statement. “But despite this, Orwell mounts a sturdy defense of our cooking – and food is one of the best ways in which different world cultures can exchange traditions and knowledge to learn from and appreciate each other.”
“Orwell was one of the finest minds on politics and the English language – but opinions are divided on his orange marmalade,” he added.
Jean Seaton, director of The Orwell Foundation, said: “The British Council rejected Orwell’s essay? What was new? The British Council were also censoring Orwell politically – he made British food sound so ghastly. At least the British Council paid him 30 guineas even if they did not publish it!” You can read Orwell’s full essay on the British Council website.