My musings came to a sudden end on Thursday as I stopped to prepare my supper. I spent much of Friday and Saturday preparing for a dinner party. I made watercress and potato soup. I also hand baked two loaves of cardamom flavoured Finnish sweet bread and one loaf of a Finnish rye-bread and a batch of lemon cup cakes.I have got into the habit of baking Finnish loaves for guests to take home with them. A Moroccan lamb tagine and pomegranate, coriander and lemon couscous plus a cloudberry Swiss roll made with frozen cloudberries and cloudberry liqueur, bought from the Finnish Church in Rotherhithe, (Head in the cloud (berries)
completed my cooking marathon. Truly a feast fit for a king or at least one king in particular: George III.
I referred earlier to the degree of consideration that King George III showed towards his royal servants at
Kew. Instead of bathing within the pink walls of the Dutch House, he chose to take his bath in a room located within the separate kitchen complex. (It had to be Kew, wonderful Kew) . This saved his servants having to trudge around with jugs of hot water from the kitchen to the royal apartments. Had they done so, their route would have been underground as there was once a subterranean passageway linking the two buildings. When Channel 4’s Time Team were carrying out an archaeological survey of the long vanished White House in 2003, they were allowed into the former kitchens and were shown the now blocked up passageway. The king’s actions might not have been wholly altruistic.
King George might have had access to some of the finest chiefs in
Europe, although he was said to prefer simple dishes when dining alone with his family. The fact is, in general, he would have had dined far better at my table than he would have at . The reason for this is simple. The logistics of ferrying cooked dishes from the kitchens to the king’s dining room meant the food was usually tepid by the time it arrived. Perhaps the king preferred not to have lukewarm baths in addition to meals. Kew Palace
At Osborne House on the Isle of White, Queen
In his biography “Monarch : The Life and Reign of Elizabeth II,” author Robert Lacey describes how the Duke of Edinburgh arranged for a vehicle to be modified to accommodate all the kitchen paraphernalia needed for him and the other members of the family to prepare cook and clear up after a barbecue. The present Queen of England has also been known to rope in her family and guests to help with the washing up after informal meals at Balmoral and
The Monarch’s regal namesake Elizabeth I famously declared “If I were turned out of my realm in my petticoat, I would prosper anywhere in Christendom”. Whether
I sometimes ask friends what career path they would have liked to have pursued if financial and actual expertise or talent did not need to be taken into consideration. Thus one accountant of my acquaintance would have liked to have been a carpenter in another life. I used to fantasise about running a tea shop in a period building. I inadvertently put my foot in it two years ago when I went to Sutton House.
“I do envy you your job,“ I said to the woman who then ran the café in the Tudor building.
“Today’s my last day,“ she explained. “They have decided not to carry on selling hot meals here as there hasn’t been sufficient local lunchtime trade to make it viable. When they re-open again in spring they will limit refreshments to tea, coffee and cakes.”
Last December I enthused to the new woman in the tea room about the delicious smell of mulled wine that permeated the house. It came from a special pot on her counter-top.
“I am really fed up with that smell now, “she confided.
There is a select band of men and women who live my dream life. They are the costumed guides at places like
. They get paid for dressing up in period costume and gliding around the state apartments, authoritatively answering questions put to them by hoi polloi in the shape of tourists. An even smaller group dress up as cooks and recreate historically accurate meals. In Tudor times only men tended to be employed in the kitchens. This could have been due to the intense heat of the kitchen fires, causing some of the servants to work in next to nothing or completely naked, much to Henry VIII’s disgust. He eventually issued orders forbidding his kitchen staff from roaming around the premises ‘naked, or in garments of such vileness as they do now.” Nevertheless, Henry did employ at least one woman in his kitchens to make 'subtleties', a role I could take on in any re-enactment. I know I was green with envy when the Eagle and I went along to Hampton Court Palace Hampton Court one New Year’s Eve. Men dressed in period costumes in the Tudor kitchens were preparing a special feast of spit-roasted venison to eat together once the palace had closed for the night to visitors. To top it all, their sleeping quarters were located in the very place that was thought to have been Anne Boleyn’s private apartments. It knocked all my New Year’s Eves ( Same Old New Year! ) into a cocked hat (or should that be crown) by comparison.