Andrea Broomfield

Andrea Broomfield

Soldier of the Fork: How Nathaniel Newnham Davis Democratized Dining

Gastronomica | Gastronomica

From Solider of the Infantry to Soldier of the Fork: that's how Lieutenant-Colonel Nathaniel Newnham-Davis described himself to Britons who liked a good dinner, but who nonetheless struggled in “the spider web of a carte de jour.” His 1899 restaurant guide, Dinners and Diners: Where and How to Dine in London, was so successful that he updated it in 1901. By 1914, when Davis published Gourmet's Guide to London, he had launched a restaurant revolution. Unlike gastronomes before him, Davis systematically demystified the protocol of restaurant dining for hundreds of middle-class people who had been too intimidated to step inside one of them or to visit locales where less-expensive restaurant meals were available. Newnham-Davis recognized that his target audience—“the Respectable Classes,” as he referred to them—had little experience with the notion of eating for pleasure or leaving the security of home to venture out to a restaurant. Understanding their inhibitions, Newnham-Davis created a guidebook genre that offered a great deal more than the bare facts and lists that characterized typical guidebooks of the era, such as Baedeker's London and Its Environs.