Eggs or Anarchy is one of the great, British stories of the Second World War yet to be told in full. It reveals the heroic tale of how Lord Woolton, Minister for Food, really fed Britain. As a nation at war, with supply routes under attack from the Axis powers and resources scarce, it was Woolton's job to fulfil his promise to the British people, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in particular, that there would be food on the shelves each week. Persuading the public to not resort to the black market and to manage on the very limited ration was one thing, but Woolton had to fulfil his side of the bargain and maintain supplies in time of crisis. A grammar school-educated genius, he was a fish out of water in Churchill's cabinet and the PM himself doubted Woolton would survive due to the unstinting criticism he faced from colleagues, the press and public.
This is the story of how he battled to save his own career while using every trick in his entrepreneurial book to secure supplies. He battled to outwit unscrupulous dealers on the black market streets of cities within the British Empire - such as Alexandria in Eygpt - persuading customs authorities to turn a blind eye to his import schemes. If Britain had gone hungry the outcome of the war could have been very different. This book, for the first time, finds out the real story of how Lord Woolton provided food for Britain and her colonies and discovers that for him there were days when it was literally a choice of 'eggs or anarchy'.
William Sitwell is one of Britain’s foremost food writers, critics, and broadcasters. The multi-award-winning editor of Waitrose Kitchen magazine for over a decade, he is a familiar face on TV appearing on shows such as BBC’s Masterchef, Food & Drink, and as presenter on a number of documentaries, notably Michelin Stars: the Madness of Perfection.
‘William writes with irresistible wit and energy . . . A compelling portrait of one of the unsung, enigmatic heroes of the Second World War’
– Michel Roux OBE
‘The battles of the Second World War have been pored over in minute detail; not so the battles waged on the Kitchen Front. The food writer William Sitwell’s account of Lord Woolton, the man in charge of the Ministry of Food during the war, is an entertaining corrective to this.’
– The Times
‘Eggs or Anarchy is as much a beguiling study of social mobility as it is a hard war memoir … there is much to enjoy – with barely a powdered egg in sight – in this biography of the man who was responsible for arguably the healthiest national diet of all time’
– Sinclair McKay, Sunday Telegraph
‘Eggs or Anarchy meticulously completes the backstory of the war. In this absorbing book Sitwell proves Woolton’s genuine intentions, absolves him for his tough line and also presents a portrait of a man whose style and approach to problems is still highly instructive. It is often said that generally the British were never healthier than in the war years. How we need a Woolton now’
– Rose Prince, The Spectator
– Andrew Marr, Radio 4 Start the Week
‘A wonderful account of how Lord Woolton, Minster for Food, managed to keep Britain fed during World War Two… a riveting read full of delicious historical details about how one unassuming man battled against all odds to keep bellies full and morale high despite the dreaded food rationing. Excuse the pun, but I could have eaten this book up with a spoon’