There are a number of stories about how the Eton Mess dessert originated. Some are fact and some are fiction – and this all adds to the fun of the stalwart English pudding. A traditional Eton Mess consists of a mixture of strawberries, broken pieces of meringue and whipped cream. It is also sometimes served with bananas or other pieces of soft fruit too.
Of all the stories relating to the origins of Eton Mess, it’s the story of the dog and the pavlova that is the most commonly recounted. Legend has it that a cricket match was taking place at Eton College in the 1920s. The story goes that a strawberry pavlova was waiting in a picnic basket as an after-match treat for the boys, when an overexcited Labrador sat on the basket and squashed it. Apparently the boys didn’t mind the fact that their dessert had been ruined and ate it anyway!
It’s a fun story to believe, except it has one major flaw…Eton Mess had already been mentioned in old documents almost 30 years before in 1893!
The cricketing theme of Eton Mess is accurate, however. It is believed Eton Mess was first served at a cricket match between Eton and Harrow, and has continued to be served at this annual match at Lords ever since. In the 1930s, the sweet treat had become so popular, it was also being served in the school’s tuck shop.
The word ‘mess’ in ‘Eton Mess’ could also have multiple meanings, and no single meaning has been proven to be the right one. Some say it simply refers to the dishevelled appearance of the food, while others think it is derived from the Latin ‘missum’, referring to a portion of food. A third alternative is when ‘mess’ is used in reference to a gathering of a people who are served together from the same pots. For example, in military settings, the ‘mess’ is where soldiers go to eat their meals.
Whatever the origins of the Eton Mess and the meanings behind its name, it is certainly a traditional English dessert that has stood the test of time.
To celebrate the dessert so loved by one of our local neighbours, we’ve put our own, slightly more tropical spin on the Eton Mess at The Runnymede.
Available at The Lock Bar and Kitchen, our Exotic Mess comes with mango, passion fruit, pineapple and toasted coconut. Although we can’t promise any cricketing incidents to accompany the dessert, we’re willing to bet you’ll be back for a few more innings once you’ve tasted it!