The Muddled History Of How Eton Mess Came To Be

The Eton Mess is a traditional British dessert. It is also a term used to describe Tory politics, as touted by The Guardian, and will probably be applied to the premiership of Boris Johnson for many years to come. At the very least, Jamie Oliver brought an Eton Mess with him when he protested against the government's decision to not fight against childhood obesity. In fact, the desert and the politicians for whom the name is an insult both come from Eton.

The legend, as The Runnymede Hotel details, is that the dish was created during a cricket match at Eton College, a fee-charging boarding school attended by sons of the upper classes, in the 1920s. A strawberry pavlova was made to celebrate the match, but a Labrador squashed it. Boys being boys didn't mind the mess and thus the Eton Mess was made.

However, as Atlas Obscura explains, the first written mention of an Eton Mess was in 1893 when Queen Victoria attended a pre-wedding party for her eldest son and was served with a dish called Eton Mess aux fraises (Eton Mess of strawberries.) In all likelihood, though, the dish pre-existed this party as it's just mashed meringue with strawberries and cream. However, as Eton is often famed for being the raising place of British statesmen, it's not unreasonable to assume that some form of class-based branding was involved.

It's easy to make a mess

Despite its aristocratic origins, the Eton Mess is very easy to make. Country Life lists caster sugar, egg whites, strawberries, icing sugar, and double cream as the entirety of the dessert's required ingredients.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites until they peak. Then, add the caster sugar. If you don't know what caster sugar is, don't worry. Culinary Lore explains that it's just the British term for superfine sugar — if you lack superfine sugar, you can make it by putting regular sugar through a coffee grinder. After mixing the two ingredients, dollop spoonfuls of the resulting meringue mixture onto a baking tray to bake at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Country Life continues the recipe by having you chop half the strawberries before you blend them with the icing sugar. The rest of the strawberries will then be chopped and whipped in the cream. Stir up the meringues into a mess and combine all the ingredients in a manner aesthetically pleasing to you. Alternatively, you can follow the BBC's idea of saving some of the meringues as a sprinkled topping.