How Queen Elizabeth Impacted What We Eat and Drink

Her affection for tea, scones, gin, and chocolate cake affected dining habits worldwide. 

Queen Elizabeth ll has a cup of tea while in Northern Ireland on a royal visit in 1977
Photo: Anwar Hussein / Getty Images

The reign of Queen Elizabeth II spanned seven decades, and as people across the globe mourn her passing, it's a good time to examine how she impacted the food that shows up on dining tables around the world. Former Buckingham Palace chef Darren McGrady offers a peek behind the curtain and into the royal dining room in his book, Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen.

McGrady, who was Queen Elizabeth's personal cook for 15 years, shares in his book that she had simpler eating habits than what you might expect. Sure, menus from state dinners and other elegant celebrations fit the glamorous fantasies many people harbor. But in her day-to-day life, the Queen did not exactly snack on caviar. In fact, her diet at home was pretty quotidian, albeit prepared by trained chefs. She enjoyed a simple breakfast of toast with marmalade, and when not entertaining, stuck to light lunches and suppers. McGrady shares in his book that she abhorred dishes with garlic or too many onions. These slightly abstemious leanings made her diet sound austere, but she had other food and drink indulgences like poached salmon, delicate tea cookies, and scones with jam and clotted cream. Here are a few others:

Gin Cocktails

The queen's preference for gin was so strong that she released her own gins from Buckingham Palace and Sandringham House, made with ingredients from the gardens at each. She preferred to drink them in a good gin cocktail, either a gin martini or gin and Dubonnet.

Earl Grey Tea

The queen began every day with a pot of Early Grey, a traditional bergamot-scented black tea she drank with milk and no sugar. Her devotion to the flavor ensured its popularity throughout the world, making it the fifth most popular tea flavor globally, according to Fresh Tea. It is the tea most associated with royalty in general and Queen Elizabeth specifically, and there is no question that its popularity was enhanced by being her majesty's favorite.

Crustless Tea Sandwiches

Traditional British afternoon tea goes back to the 1840s, when the Duchess of Bedford called for a light meal to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner. Queen Elizabeth adhered to a daily teatime meal; her preference for delicate sandwiches with the crusts cut off was well-publicized. Her favorite version was reported to be smoked salmon with cream cheese.

Game Meats and Wild-Caught Fish Dinners

If the old adage is true, one should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper. Queen Elizabeth seemed to have taken this to heart, eating lighter meals composed of simple proteins and vegetables at night. A longtime sportswoman, Queen Elizabeth frequently dined on venison, wild birds, or other game — often sourced on one of her properties — or salmon fished from the River Dee at Balmoral Castle. The queen's preference for game meats even extended to more casual meals; she was, reportedly, a big fan of hamburgers made with ground venison. She usually skipped any potatoes, pastas or grains at her evening repast, but almost always had room for dessert.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

The queen had a legendary love of sweets, especially anything chocolate. She especially enjoyed a classic icebox-style cake using simple tea biscuits suspended in an egg-enriched ganache and then chilled before coated in a thin layer of chocolate. This was something she requested daily as long as it was around, according to the royal chefs. She even had her chef transport leftovers by train from Buckingham Palace to Windsor to ensure not a morsel was wasted. It was a dessert truly fit for royalty.

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