When, at the age of 11, I was packed off from my London home to boarding school, I was apprehensive about a lot of things: being away from home, making new friends, and—given my prodigious appetite—eating. Boarding school food, after all, had a reputation for being bland and stodgy, something akin to the inedible slop served to children in Victorian novels. Yet as soon as I arrived at Wycombe Abbey, a school founded in 1896 in Buckinghamshire, England, I realized my fears had been unfounded. Break-fasts consisted of fluffy scrambled eggs and crispy bacon, accompanied by baked beans. Dinners were battered cod and tartar sauce, followed by a sherry trifle for dessert. But the best meals came in the middle of the day, when, at the sound of a bell, we would sprint to the dining hall where we were given a generous slab of savory pie—shepherd's, chicken, or steak and ale—followed by spotted dick, a cakelike currant-flecked pudding that you could hardly make out under its thick duvet of vanilla custard.