If you’re ever lucky enough to be invited for a meal with Queen Elizabeth, don’t show up expecting a nice, big plate of garlicky pasta. Because there’s one palace food rule that can never be broken: no garlic! “She hated the smell of it, she hated the taste of it,” said Darren McGrady, who worked as a royal chef for more than a decade.
Messy foods like spaghetti are also taboo, as are onions, ketchup, curry and shellfish. Blackberries and raspberries are banned as well, as they have seeds that might stick in Elizabeth’s teeth; for the same reason, tomato and cucumber seeds must be removed.
These predilections in mind, the royal chef devises the week’s menus days in advance, and gives them to the monarch in a red leather menu book. “She would put a line through the ones she didn’t want,” recalled McGrady. Game, steak with mushroom whisky sauce and smoked salmon pâté were among her favorites, he said. “For the most part, she stuck to the same dishes week in week out.”
Another queenly demand? Dessert, which McGrady said she rarely skipped: “Anything on the menu that had chocolate, she’d choose, especially chocolate perfection pie.” Afternoon tea is also a must. Prince Charles once said his family was “obsessed” with it and that everything stops at 5 p.m. for the daily ritual, which usually includes scones, potted shrimp and dainty cucumber sandwiches always cut just so, with the crusts trimmed and the corners rounded off.
“The royals never have square sandwiches,” according to Graham Newbould, another former royal chef. “Tradition has it that anyone presenting them with pointed- edge food is trying to overthrow the throne.” And while HRH may be a stickler for protocol, she’s not above going rogue when she’s feeling peckish. “At Balmoral,” dished McGrady, “she’d eat fruit from a plastic yellow Tupperware container!”
Finally, if you thought Downton Abbey depicted a totally bygone era, think again: When Elizabeth throws a palace dinner party, she still insists that everyone dress formally!
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