Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
The world is still reeling from the death of Queen Elizabeth II yesterday at the age of 96 – having held the throne for 70 years, she was the longest reigning monarch and figure beloved by many.
The Queen may have been an integral part of British culture for the last seven decades, but as constant as she has been in all of our lives, she was also a famously private person, who kept much of her personal life behind the doors of Windsor Palace.
Fortunately, over the years, those who had lived and worked with her have shared stories about her humour and grace, but also of the day-to-day particularities she had, which ultimately made her human.
Here at Twisted, we’re firm believers that the best way to learn about someone is over the dinner table, so as we remember The Queen, we’ve done some research into what she liked to eat and drink in a day, her favourite foods and the culinary creations she kept firmly out of her diet.
‘Eating like a Queen’
You might assume that the Royal household is all about caviar and quails eggs, but believe it or not, by her own chef’s admission the Queen was “never a foodie”.
Instead, she was a creature of habit, who liked four rather simple meals, and was “frugal” when it came to portion sizes. In short? She wouldn’t have thought much of one of Twisted‘s giant cheeseburgers, or pizzadillas.
In his biography, Diamond Queen, broadcaster Andrew Marr told how “all her life she preferred simple food to fancy”.
“The queen had a menu book and she could choose from a selection for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, putting a line through the dishes that she didn’t want,” added her former chef Darren McGrady in an article he wrote for Newsweek, reflecting on when he worked as one of Her Majesty’s team of 20 cooks.
Whilst at Twisted we’re all about trying the new and the innovative, The Queen took a more conservative approach to her daily diet. In fact, Camilla, the new Queen Consort herself, one said: “I think she likes things very plain, nothing too complicated.”
It’s for this reason, the Queen’s chefs would always curate her menu around the “parameters” of her favourite meals.
“She loved tradition…she loved having dishes that she’d had for so long,” McGrady adds.
In his own book, Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen, he famously tells how the monarch “ate to live” rather than for any great love of food…but that’s not to say that her food choices aren’t illuminating.
The Queen’s breakfast
The Queen’s breakfast was never that different from something you might eat yourself, other than the fact it was served to her by a footman, on Royal crockery, promptly at 7.30am every morning.
According to Royal biographer, Katie Nicholl: “HRH typically [woke up] with a simple cup of tea and biscuits, followed by a bowl of cereal (she liked her cereal stored in a Tupperware to keep it fresher).
She’d enjoy the biscuits – Marie cookies – in her room before starting her day. As for her choice of brew? Reports are conflicting, but her former staff have cited her partiality to Darjeeling tea, as well as Assam and Earl Grey, with no sugar.
If you’re wondering what cereal The Queen ate, her choice was apparently Kellogg’s Special K, although she also dabbled with Quaker Oats and Weetabix.
She typically enjoyed it with milk and fruit, whilst reading the newspapers, (in particular the Racing Post, due to her love of horse racing) and listening to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
When she wasn’t in the mood for her usual fare, The Queen also mixed things up with a somewhat more peculiar morning snack. Former Royal servant Charles Oliver said that the monarch had been particularly fond of kippers ever since being offered them as a child, by the kitchen staff at Windsor Palace.
“Kippers, in a number of uncomplicated variations, have remained a favourite with the Queen ever since,” he said in his book, Dinner at Buckingham Palace, adding that she frequently ate them for breakfast, “if not as a savoury or a late-night supper.”
The Queen liked a daily gin
Believe it or not, The Queen also liked a quick tipple before lunch. Because why not, right?
Margaret Rhodes, a late cousin of The Queen, said that she often drank an aperitif in the early afternoon, which was made of gin and Dubonnet, consumed with a slice of lemon and ice.
“It was very popular in the 60s and 70s and then kind of disappeared for a while. In other parts of the world, they are enduringly popular. So it makes a lot of sense that the Queen would be a fan of it,” said cocktail expert Noah Rothbaum on Royally Obsessed.
The Queen ate a light lunch
We already know The Queen didn’t eat a huge amount in a day, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that her lunch was always a light one.
“When she dines on her own, she’s very disciplined,” McGrady said in his book. “No starch is the rule.”
Her Maj’ usually ate fish and vegetables, or something else simple like a grilled chicken salad.
Afternoon Tea and The Queen’s love of chocolate
Afternoon Tea is one of those meals synonymous with Royalty and British aristocracy. Little finger sandwiches, scones and dainty cakes…and of course, jam. It’s no wonder HRH enjoyed it daily.
This is where we learn a little more about The Queen’s tastebuds – in particular, her love of all things sweet.
“The Queen is a total chocaholic. Chocolate biscuit cake [made with McVitie’s Rich Tea biscuits] is her favourite,” McGrady told Food and Wine during her reign, adding that sometimes a whole cake would be eaten in a day.
The Queen didn’t love milk or white chocolate, according to the chef, who noted that she tended to eat bars that were 60% cacao or higher.
Other cakes she was partial to included a honey and cream sponge and a ginger cake.
As she got older, though, The Queen is said to have “cut back” on the sweet stuff, in favour of sandwiches, with fillings like salmon, egg and/or tuna mayonnaise, ham and mustard and cucumber. Several Royal chefs have spoken of Her Majesty’s preference to eat these with the crusts removed (don’t tell your fussy kids).
Even when she was cutting back on sweet foods, McGrady has told how she’d eat ‘Jam Pennies’ at least once a week (these are jam sandwiches which are cut into circles and bitesize – the size of a penny).
“We’d make the jam at Balmoral Castle with gorgeous Scottish strawberries from the gardens,” the former Royal chef disclosed. This particular dish stems back to her childhood, seeing as apparently she used to eat them every day, from the age of about five.
Remember when we told you The Queen was a woman who liked to stick to the foods she knew? Well, this more than proves it.
The Queen’s dinner
For dinner, The Queen usually enjoyed meat, such as a fillet of beef, venison or pheasant, or salmon from Sandringham or Balmoral.
Interestingly, Prince Charles’ former butler, Grant Harrold told MyLondon: “The Queen likes beef well done, which is really interesting. [When I heard that] I found it quite funny because that’s not normal for most people like her.
“I find in the world of aristocracy, things are always kind of medium, rare or still kind of walking.”
Dessert would typically be fruit from the Royal grounds, and she would occasionally wash it down with a glass of champagne, according to Margaret Rhodes. What a life, ey.
Should she be entertaining, for either lunch or dinner, a meal would typically be a lot heavier, with as many as four courses, cream, butter and most likely game from the Royal courts, which The Queen “loved”.
Fast food and ready meals
HRH may not have been big into food, but we all get a craving once in a while, don’t we? Whilst many of us might yearn for a McDonald’s, it may not surprise you to learn that The Queen has never had actual fast food.
McGrady told US Food: “In the years that I cooked at [Buckingham] palace, the Queen never had pizza”.
That being said, she did like a burger (without the bun, and eaten with a knife and fork in line with the Victorian table manners she was brought up with).
“It always tickled me at Balmoral, we would make our own burgers,” McGrady said to Insider. “They would shoot deer, and we would do venison burgers. There’d be gorgeous cranberry and everything stuffed into them, but we never set buns out”.
Sure, it might be a bit more a la carte than your standard greasy takeout, but we like the thought of The Queen occasionally shunning her usual fodder, and tucking into a meaty patty, just like us.
As the Royal family were on the move a lot, they also occasionally had to eat for convenience – and apparently this wasn’t always as high class as you’d expect.
The Queen’s former pilot, Graham Laurie, said the former reigning monarch sometimes tucked into a Fray Bentos pie on a long-haul flight.
“Do you know, [the family] used to love it,” he said in a documentary on Channel 5. “I think it’s such a lovely change from all that fancy food which comes first class!”
It seems fitting that the only other fast food you’d ever see The Queen eat is about as British as it gets. Yup, we’re talking about a chippy tea.
Apparently, when she was at Balmoral, HRH sometimes indulged in fish and chips from the local town of Ballater, according to a Royal source in Fabulous mag.
The chefs in the palace would also make fish and chips to The Queen’s taste.
“The Queen wouldn’t really eat the fish fried in all that crispy rich batter – a little bit too much for her. She preferred a more refined fish and chips. The chips were all cut the same length – every one the same length, perfect rectangles,” McGrady said on his YouTube channel.
The Queen’s favourite food
As much as we’ve learnt about The Queen’s exacting tastebuds, one thing we will never know is her actual favourite dish.
According to Gordon Rayner, former royal correspondent for The Telegraph, a Royal staffer said The Queen would never reveal her favourite dish for fear it would be the only thing she was ever cooked.
“As one of her staff told me, ‘If she said she had a favourite meal she would never get served anything else’,” he said.
A savvy move, if you ask us.
The Queen’s eating habits obviously only offer a small insight into the life she led, but we thought exploring her favourite foods was a fitting lens through which to honour her 96 years.
There’s no doubt she would have politely declined a lot of the food we cook here at Twisted HQ, but one thing we can all agree on is that a gin before lunch is always a good idea.