Grim's Grub: Eat better than royalty - forbidden foods

By royal decree, members of the British royal family have restrictions you might not know about

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If Mel Brooks' “History of the World Part I" and "Part II” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” have it right, it's good to be king.

That's in keeping with what most people expect of royal privilege. But it turns out they can't have their cake and eat it too, as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, once said.

Food and British royalty are inexorably connected throughout history. China's delicious mangosteens are named the queen of fruits due to Queen Victoria's obsession over them.

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The chubby, overindulging King Henry VIII was so afflicted with gout it became known as the "disease of kings" due to his excess of rich foods and organ dishes.

Queen Elizabeth II was likely considering the history of the royal family when she took active efforts to change things.


Under Elizabeth, there were rules for preserving the prestige, health and dignity of the family. The royal family had a strict diet of what they could or could not consume, usually for surprisingly logical reasons.

To preserve the image of the family being prim and proper, Queen Elizabeth ensured her ilk would never fumigate dinner guests with bad breath. To that end, the royals avoid the joys and delicious addition of onions and garlic to their dishes.

Food stains are yet another faux pas the queen banned. Everyone knows not to wear white and eat pasta with red sauce.

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For the same reason, pasta with marinara sauce is yet another no no.

Without the garlic bread, what's the point? Furthermore, pasta itself was only to be eaten freshly made, and only rarely.

The queen was certainly attempting to avoid the rotund visage of past royalty when she restricted the family's consumption of pasta, but that wasn't the only food limited for sake of weight restrictions.

Potatoes and other starchy foods were all supposed to be limited to special occasions, and never while dining alone.

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The rules add up to something horrible. They could not eat starchy foods, garlic or red sauce, which rules out pizza and lasagna.


I hereby abdicate the throne if anyone ever asks.

The royal image is of utmost importance to the family. It would be a great embarrassment to those in this lofty position if they were ever brought to their knees like a normal human by a spicy chicken wing.

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As a result, for image sake alone, the family does not eat spicy foods.

An online commenter once joked that England conquered most of the world in search of spices and then used none of them. I'm beginning to think the English reputation for bland food might be a result of the masses "eating like royalty."

There is a certain level of practicality in all of these rules, whether it is avoiding offending global dignitaries with garlic breath, remaining healthy so people joke about you being an immortal lizard person, avoiding spaghetti splatter or simply saving face.

Queen Elizabeth specifically banned shellfish like oysters, lobster, crab and similar specifically to avoid real health concerns. Less logically, though the queen's favorite dish was Gaelic steak, she had banned rare meat, likely also for food poisoning avoidance.

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When you consider that nearly half of all food poisonings are a result of shellfish, that rule makes a lot of sense. The last thing a royal wants is to have a repeat of George H.W. Bush's incident on Jan. 8, 1992, when the president, suffering gastroenteritis, fainted and vomited into the lap of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa on live television.

Even worse is the risk of death, as some foodborne illnesses are incredibly dangerous.


There are less practical restrictions on the royal menu as well. For one, sandwiches are to have no crusts, and only seasonal fruit may grace the royal table.

Kudos to the new King Charles, however, as he favors wild foraged foods like mushrooms. I'm surprised he can eat wild mushrooms but not shellfish.

Gaelic Steak

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Inspired by

  • 1 pound venison loin
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms — wild if you want to be like King Charles
  • 1 quarter of an onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1 ounce of Irish or Scotch whiskey

Cut the venison into 2-inch thick medallions. Season both sides with salt and set the medallions aside for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan before patting your venison medallions completely dry. If this removes too much salt, you may add more as well as pepper. When the oil is hot enough, brown the meat on both sides to develop a crust.

In keeping with the royal rules, you may now either cook the medallions through until well done, or use an instant read thermometer and remove the steaks to a plate under aluminum foil once they reach medium rare, about 120 degrees. Reserve the liquid in the pan. Allow the steaks to rest.

In the same pan, add more oil and brown the sliced mushrooms over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until they start to soften, then add garlic. When the onions are soft, stir in the whiskey and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze and loosen any flavorful fond.

Allow the whiskey to simmer until almost totally evaporated. Lower the heat and stir in ¾ cup of heavy cream. Simmer this until thickened, then season to taste.


Serve the steak with cream sauce over the top. If you want to buck royal rules, serve with mashed potatoes or parsnips.

Seafood Linguine Fra Diavolo

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Adapted from

  • 16 ounces long, thin pasta
  • 1 1/2 pounds shrimp and/or other shellfish, defrosted and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 

Cook your pasta in a pot of boiling water, removing it before the pasta reaches al dente so it can finish cooking in the sauce.

Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet, then add the seafood, garlic and crushed pepper. Saute until it is cooked through.

Add the marinara sauce and parsley in the skillet and heat through. Finish cooking the noodles by adding them to the hot sauce and add ½ cup of the pasta water to thicken the sauce as it continues cooking. Add the parsley after plating. Chances are the risk of having parsley in your teeth would also be a royal faux pas.

Enjoy a meal too risque for the royal family.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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