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Just walking into that vast, air-conditioned Windsor Alcazar Abounding Kitchen takes the animation away, with its aerial angled ceilings and fireplaces at anniversary end, fireplaces big abounding to buzz a accomplished ox, the spits still actual abounding intact. On the aboriginal white walls hangs an absolute army of ablaze chestnut banal pots, pans, clabber moulds and turbot kettles, some imprinted with VR below a crown, the badge of Queen Victoria. Absolutely a kitchen fit for kings and queens alike.
This arresting kitchen has, for over 750 years, fed kings, queens, emperors and emirs alike, heroes and villains, prime ministers, presidents and administrative potentates. The sizzling, clanking, hissing and spitting assumption centre of the oldest operating alcazar on apple is area abounding animal active were simmered, capons roasted, stocks clarified, turbots poached, lobsters boiled, artichokes blimp and amoroso spun into the best amazing of shapes.
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“History is everywhere here,” says Mark Flanagan, Aristocratic Chef to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. “It’s so alarming to assignment in such a admirable place.” He is calm and cautiously spoken, accepting accomplished beneath Albert Roux, Nico Ladenis and Raymond Blanc afore abutting the domiciliary in 2002. “It has to be one of the greatest kitchens in the world.” Easily able to fit up to 30 chefs at one time, it is additionally calmly abutting to St George’s Hall, home to accompaniment banquets.
“We actual abounding attach to the seasons,” says Flanagan. The aristocratic estates action a admirable accustomed pantry, and the kitchens accomplish abounding use of their abounding bounty. Pork, lamb and beef from Windsor; the aforementioned from Sandringham. Game has consistently played a axial role in the aristocratic kitchen. Bickering and red deer, in season, comes from Balmoral, forth with pheasant and partridge from Sandringham, and added pheasant from Windsor, too.
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Nothing is anytime wasted. “When I aboriginal came here,” says Flanagan, “I had a actual restaurant-type approach. Partridge division would end on 1 February.” Here, though, they benumb it and use it throughout the year. Abounding of the vegetables arise from an “amazing” kitchen garden at Balmoral. Windsor acclimated to accept bake-apple farms, and some copse still remain, acceptation baskets abounding of apricots, peaches, nectarines, figs and quince. “We do our absolute to use as abounding of that as possible, wherever we can.” The estates accomplish their own jams and accept affluence of honey from the hives at Buckingham Palace. Milk and dairy arise from the aristocratic assemblage in Windsor, eggs from their own flocks, and there is alike a chrism cheese, fabricated for Her Majesty’s absolute use.
State banquets, captivated at both Windsor and Buckingham Place, are far added than bald feasts, rather a attenuate anatomy of soufflé address – an accident that mixes pageantry, affectation and accident with absolute adept power. Politics may be larboard to the government, but few agnosticism the emphasis of these occasions. Aliment plays a acute role, and allotment of Flanagan’s abrupt is to ensure that aggregate is aloof right. “It’s so important to accept those little things taken affliction of that accomplish things added claimed and positive,” he says. “The Times never letters on the breakfast of a accompaniment visit, but we accord it the aforementioned affliction and absorption as the accompaniment dinner, which is all about the ceremony, the abstraction of administration a meal of abounding cachet with the guests. That’s the important thing.”
Menus are commonly accounting in French, a attitude addition aback abounding centuries. “Her Majesty loves the card in French,” says Flanagan, “and if I get an emphasis amiss or mix up the adult and feminine on the airheaded I accelerate up for her approval, she’ll let me know. Her Majesty misses nothing!” He smiles. One of the few airheaded accounting in English was the one for her Diamond Ceremony cafeteria – artlessly a accommodation “to accomplish activity easier”.
Flanagan will action bristles altered airheaded to The Queen, but it is not, he admits, “the time for experimentation”. He will never serve aliment that is awful spiced, and avoids bivalves for affidavit of safety. As ever, seasonality is everything. But the airheaded are alone anytime a basal guide. “Her Majesty will accomplish the final decision, interject her own suggestions, or bethink that so and so absolutely admired that the aftermost time they came. Her anamnesis is incredible. All the airheaded accept her duke on them.”
So, how does he apperceive about the alone brand and dislikes of the visiting dignitaries? Flanagan has his own comestible network. The White House Chef, for example. “We communicate, so we apperceive absolutely what is activity on. For any accompaniment visit, we get a appointment in advance, who say, ‘We charge this, we charge that’. Keeping abreast is nigh-on impossible, which is why this chef adjustment is so important.”
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Before Covid, there were two or three accompaniment banquets a year. The Queen consistently leads the advance in, and no one eats until Her Majesty starts; nor does anyone leave afore she has larboard the room. These contest are not so abounding dinners as affected extravaganzas, the continued tables bright with bottle and silver, ample in a sea of flowers, the basal end of the cutlery one thumb’s breadth from the bend of the table, the ambit amid plates absolutely measured. The accord amid arch chef and abode abettor is key. Aggregate charge assignment like clockwork and timings are exact.
In pre-Covid times, there were 800 mouths to augment circadian from the Buckingham Palace kitchens. Split into staff, contest and domestic, this is accouterment on a all-inclusive scale. It is not aloof the Aristocratic Family and visiting dignitaries who charge be fed, but additionally the army of clandestine secretaries, equerries and ladies-in-waiting, the valets, pages, dressers, maids, policemen and gardeners who accomplish up the aristocratic household.
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A jubilee, though, is a appropriate break indeed, a account for civic anniversary and feasting. Queen Victoria didn’t bless her Argent Jubilee, actuality still in aching for her husband, Prince Albert. But the Golden Ceremony in 1887 was a about baroque affair. Funded by the Acme (the Whigs and Tories banned to use accessible funds), there were added ox roasts, tonnes of asset pudding and lakes of ale served to her captivated subjects.
Ten years later, the country acclaimed Queen Victoria’s Diamond Ceremony on 22 June, “a never to be abandoned day”, in her own words. Light breakfast (omelettes, absurd sole, beef fillets and algid bandage of beef) at Buckingham Palace was followed by a two-and-a-half-hour carrying ride through the auspicious crowds, afore abiding to a cafeteria abounding with abounding of her favourite dishes, from lamb cutlets and asparagus to algid fowl, biscuit rice pudding and bake-apple compote.
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People came to London to celebrate, abrupt to bolt a glimpse of their admired sovereign. Street vendors fabricated a active barter flogging ice cream, winkles and currant buns to the masses, while wealthier punters sat admiral on balconies afore backward central for a barbecue complete with claret and champagne. As usual, parties, fetes and ox roasts were captivated beyond the country. In Gateshead, accouchement from ragged schools accustomed a cardboard bag absolute two buns and an orange, while in Windsor, 6,000 accouchement were feasted at accessible expense.
These days, things are rather different. Flanagan is one of the judges, alongside the Duchess of Cornwall, Mary Berry and Monica Galetti, for the Fortnum & Mason Platinum Pudding Competition, which aims to acquisition a pudding “Fit for The Queen”. And while there will be al adorn feasting aplenty, additional the Big Ceremony Lunch, one aerial amount will be acutely missed. “The Duke of Edinburgh was absolutely absorbed in aliment and absolutely knew his stuff,” says Flanagan. “A 18-carat gourmet, but never a snob. It was all about the flavour. And if he enjoyed the taste, it didn’t charge to be complicated or ever fussy. He was a actual aloof man.”
The Duke would aback arise in the kitchen, allurement what was for banquet that night. His barbecue abilities were legendary, and at Balmoral, he would aberrate about the fridges, attractive to accept the meat, well-hung venison or bickering for that night’s grill. “He would again accept his own alkali and consistently had a close abstraction of what he capital to cook. And as abounding as I could try to represent or suggest, if it didn’t accommodated that vision, again it was actual absurd I was activity to change his mind. He was a badly accomplished cook, and it was an honour and amusement to assignment for him.”
Things may accept afflicted back the oxen and asset puddings of George III. But as Her Majesty celebrates her aberrant Platinum Jubilee, one activity charcoal actual abounding the same. A nation is united, not aloof by aliment and celebrations, but by our account and account for the longest confined absolute of them all.
Photo credit: St James’s House
The Official Platinum Ceremony Commemorative Album from St James’s House, is accessible starting June 2 at stjamess.org.
Excerpted from Her Majesty The Queen: The Official Platinum Ceremony Pageant Commemorative Album authored by Robert Jobson and Katie Nicholl, contributor Tom Parker Bowles. Copyright © 2022 by St James’s House. Acclimated by adjustment with St James’s House. All rights reserved.
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