04 December 2011

Fortnum & Mason Christmas Hamper

There was a piece in The Daily Telegraph on that great holiday tradition, the Christmas hamper. Here is an excerpt:

"For a great many people, a Fortnum’s hamper represents the very epitome of a traditional Christmas, or at least as dreamt up by Dickens – himself a loyal Fortnum’s customer.

And in truth, could there be anything more thrillingly festive than the first sighting of a distinctive F&M logo’ed wicker basket sitting plumply on a doorstep (hopefully your own)? Nestling inside is the flavoursome promise of gastronomic fare fit for a king, or a caliph.

With the coming of the Romantic Movement, the vogue for eating outdoors and enjoying the countryside led to the popularity of Fortnum’s hampers. As The Season became established, the well-to-do were sustained at the Eton-Harrow cricket match at Lord’s, Henley Royal Regatta, Ascot and so forth by jugged hare and truffles.

Hampers, or rather tea chests, were also dispatched to officers fighting the Naopleonic Wars, and in the 1850s, Queen Victoria ordered the store to send Florence Nightingale an enormous consignment of concentrated beef tea for the wounded in the Crimea.

“Earl Haig requested bespoke hampers, designed like panniers, to straddle a camel and, of course, Fortnum’s obliged,” says Tanner. “There was a dedicated officers’ supply department, set up in 1914 to provide food parcels for the Western Front, Gallipoli, Russia and North Africa. Winston Churchill complained bitterly by letter when his wife Clemmie sent him upmarket provisions because what he really desperately wanted was a hot-water bottle.”

It was after the Great War that Christmas hampers really took off as fewer people were inclined to make their own Christmas cakes and puddings."


v. Braun. said...

Looks very consumable! As you know, we have other traditions around Christmas here but this would be ideal for (the days around) New Year!

Anonymous said...

Oh I can't afford a hamper, although I would love one, what a keepsake but I'm having their Goose & Chestnut pie on on Christmas Day. Fortnums is my favourite London shop.

Laura said...

good choice

La Sombra Sofisticada said...

Interesting story! I wouldn't mind a hamper or two.

Reggie Darling said...

I always found the prospect of Christmas hampers from F&M to be wonderfully evocative of everything I love about England of days gone by, having read numerous references to them in many of the English children's books from the 1930s-1950s that I read as a child. I will always vividly recall my first visit to the store, as a teenager, and the sense that I had, then, of finding myself in the epicenter of my culinary English fantasies of Christmas puddings, teas, sweets, and creams. Delightful! Reggie

A.E.F. said...

Admiral, how lovely! And how deeply civilised. My grandmother used to order their Rose Petal jam for afternoon tea on the terrace in the summer and marzipan pigs for our Christmas stockings.