Queen Elizabeth has called Buckingham Palace home for nearly seven decades. During that time, she has invited thousands of guests to share the royal dinner table. She has also developed a routine with her chefs and kitchen staff that includes a secret code for communication.
The palace menus and recipes are not written in English
According to Hello! Magazine, one of the most surprising things about the menus and recipes at Buckingham Palace is the language. Former royal chef Darren McGrady cooked for Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry. He revealed that the palace menus are written in French.
McGrady explained the palace routine included presenting the monarch with a red leather-bound recipe book written in French.
“We prepared the menus three days ahead so we could get the food in. The chefs would pick the menus and she would put a line through the ones she didn’t want,” McGrady said.
The routine doesn’t change when the Queen is hosting guests. The menu is almost always in French, regardless of the visitors’ native language. The same rules apply for major events, like the dinner the monarch hosted following the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Queen Elizabeth is fluent in French. But, the menu tradition actually goes back to the 11th century Norman conquests when French became the official language of the court.
Queen Elizabeth prefers light and healthy meals
McGrady revealed that there are foods which are banned from the palace menu. The chefs never include garlic and onions in the meals they prepare for the palace menu. When it comes to the monarch’s favorite dishes, McGrady says she prefers light and healthy meals.
“The Queen is not a foodie. She eats to live, unlike Prince Philip who loves to eat and would stand and talk food all day. When she dines on her own, she’s very disciplined. No starch is the rule.”
Hello! Magazine revealed that a staple on the menu during Queen Elizabeth’s summers at Balmoral Castle is grilled Dover sole on a bed of wilted spinach or courgette. The low-fat, high protein meal is popular in the UK. Dover sole is a right-eyed flatfish with an unusual texture and a sweet flavor.
It is seasoned with salt and pepper, butter, and lemon. Dover sole is often served with new potatoes and parsley butter.
Queen Elizabeth communicates with the palace kitchen staff via secret code
Another detail that McGrady revealed about royal dining traditions is that Her Majesty uses a secret code to communicate with the palace kitchen staff. As Hello! Magazine points out, the palace kitchens are filled with professional chefs and a busy staff who serve a number of meals everyday to many people.
When the red leather book is presented to the Queen, her markings have a special meaning. McGrady gave some details in the documentary Secrets of the Royal Kitchen.
“If she’s out for dinner she’ll put a line through the page, and if she has a guest coming she’ll put two or three, so we know she is entertaining,” McGrady dished.
However, this royal tradition could change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Queen Elizabeth’s safety in mind, passing the menu back and forth between several people could become a thing of the past.
Her Majesty is currently at her Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle, with Prince Philip. Royal family members have visited the Queen during the pandemic. But, she doesn’t appear to be receiving guests.