The origin of Wimbledon's iconic dish: Strawberries and Cream
Strawberries and cream have been associated with Wimbledon since its 1877 inception, and 140 years later, the snack food has stuck. Served at counters at the All-England Tennis Club since, strawberries and cream are synonymous with the tournament.
But where did that association begin?
Origins of the strawberry at Wimbledon
The strawberry has been an indispensable part of Wimbledon right from its inception.
The oldest of the four Grand Slams would not be the same without Strawberry and cream, a delicacy munched on by spectators since the All England Club was moved from Worple Road grounds to its iconic home in the Church Road area of SW19 in the 1920s.
There is no specific answer to the question ‘Why strawberries? But the definite solution to the question can be put on circumstances. Johnny Perkins, the PR head of All England Club explains that strawberries were always in the season when the Wimbledon was played, and it was a part of the culture of Victorian England to enjoy strawberries, and it was considered to be a fashionable ritual back then, as it went well with the afternoon tea.
How did the iconic strawberries and cream come about?
Legend has it that Thomas Wolsey first served the combination of strawberries and cream back in 1509 in a banquet. Strawberries have been a part of ancient Europe since time immemorial, as they were mostly consumed to help with labour pains and help prevent bad breath.
Cream was a part of the diet of the peasants, not the aristocrats, and strawberries and cream can be seen as amalgamation that brought together the rich and the poor. Strawberries have also been linked to the Roman goddess of Love, Venus, as the heart shape of the strawberries perfectly resemble the deity.
When was the dish served for the first time at Wimbledon?
The dish was served to the members of the audience for the first time in the inaugural edition of the Wimbledon in 1877. Around 200 people had come to watch the encounter between the first Wimbledon champion, Spencer Gore and his opponent W.C. Marshall.
Gore prevailed over Marshall in the final and dominated him with an amazing display of his skills, as he won the match 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. That day gave birth to the iconic tradition of serving strawberries and cream at Wimbledon which has been an integral part of the tournament ever since then.
How much strawberries and cream is consumed at Wimbledon each year?
The consumption of strawberries and cream every year at the Wimbledon is mind-boggling, as the numbers come up to a whopping 28,000 kg of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream.
The strawberries are served in baskets of 10, sold for around £3.90, with the cream and sugar optional. The strawberries served to everyone are grown in farms in the southern county of Kent, and are brought to London in trucks. The strawberries are picked on the day they are to be served, and the process begins as early as 4 in the morning!
What other eatery is provided at Wimbledon?
There are other things too, that are served at Wimbledon other than strawberries and cream. 28,000 bottles of champagne are uncorked every year, and 230,000 glasses of Pimm’s are drunk. 350,000 cups of coffee and tea are served, and 190,000 sandwiches are munched on by the members of the audience who come to watch top class, world famous players sweat it out on the field to win the Wimbledon Championships.
As the Wimbledon is played in the English summer, 60,000 portions of ice cream are served to help the audience tackle the heat.
The players are provided with 15,000 bananas every year in order to ensure they maintain their energy and play to their optimum best.
It takes 1,700 catering staff to feed everyone at Wimbledon.
What else do the fans and the players get?
The fans and the players get 250,000 bottles of water, 150,000 bath buns, scones, pasties and doughnuts, 130,000 served lunches, 100,000 pints of draft beer and lager, 60,000 sausages, 40,000 served, char-grilled meals, 30,000 portions of fish and chips, 30,000 liters (31,700 quarts) of milk, 22,000 slices of pizza, and 2,000 kilos (26,455 pounds) of poached salmon and smoked salmon.
What other iconic dishes/drinks have become synonymous with Wimbledon?
Champagne is an essential part of the Wimbledon, with Lanson Champagne a sponsor of the event. The champagne is sold by the bottle, and fans enjoy this special occasion brut bubbly while watching the match and cheering for their favourite players.
Another favourite drink among the fans is Pimm’s Cup, a gin-based cocktail with cucumber, ginger ale and a sprig of mint as its main ingredients.
Afternoon tea is as much a part of the Wimbledon as the country itself. Afternoon tea comprises of hot tea, scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream. A newer member to the Wimbledon which has taken the fans by storm is the Gravlax Crostini, which is topped with crème fraiche and a sprinkling of capers.
Classic cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches keep the fans and their tummy happy all day long, and it is a very popular food item at the Wimbledon. If the finger sandwiches and strawberries doesn’t satisfy the fans, they can always go for Cornish pasties stuffed with chicken, butternut squash, and carrots.
Strawberries and cream are now one of the most symbolic and classic dishes of the world – and with the top players’ shots, are among the best things ‘served’ on court!