The British Council has posthumously apologised to writer George Orwell for rejecting his essay “In defence of English cooking” more than 70 years ago, amid concerns about its suitability for “continental readers”.
The government-funded organisation, which promotes British language and culture around the world, posted a blog titled “With apologies to Mr Orwell”.
“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,” wrote Alasdair Donaldson, a British Council analyst.
A shorter version of Orwell’s essay was published in the London Evening Standard newspaper, Mr Donaldson added.
George Orwell’s Essay “British Cookery” is Officially Published 70 Years After It Was Rejected by the British Council.
— Open Culture (@openculture) February 9, 2019
In the commissioned essay, Orwell observed that “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.”
He included recipes for Welsh rarebit, Yorkshire pudding, orange marmalade, treacle tart, plum cake and Christmas pudding.
George Orwell on making tea: 'Tea is always drunk with milk, and it is usual to brew it very strong, about one spoonful of dry tea leaves being allowed for each cup.'
Do you agree? ☕️https://t.co/Ni5iwvpQ8k
— British Council (@BritishCouncil) February 7, 2019
“Apart from one or two minor criticisms, I think it is excellent, but I am glad you agree with me that it would be unfortunate and unwise to publish it for the continental reader,” a British Council editor wrote to Orwell in May 1946.
Orwell, who died in 1950 aged 46, is best known for his satirical political novels 1984 and Animal Farm and non-fiction work such as The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.