A Former Palace Chef Explained How the Queen Eats Fruit and It’s Pretty Weird

Sticky fingers and juice dripping down your chin are part of the enjoyment of a slice of summer watermelon or a perfectly ripe pear. Not, however, if you’re a member of the royal family.

Queen Elizabeth would never hear of such a thing! Even though she prefers fruit for dessert, the queen never eats it out of hand nor does she allow anyone else to, either. All fruit is eaten properly with silverware like everything else on the royal menu. That’s just one of the many royal rules of etiquette they must follow.

Queen Elizabeth II in a purple outfit and hat
Queen Elizabeth II | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The regal way to eat a banana

If you’re a royal, you don’t simply grab a banana, rip the peel partway down, and begin munching. Like everything else in their lives, there’s a correct way to eat a banana and it’s rather elegant.

According to former palace chef Darren McGrady, the family eats bananas by cutting the ends off, slicing the peel from end to end, spreading the peel open, slicing the banana into rounds, and eating each slice with a fork. 

And that’s nothing compared to how they eat pears! Apparently, the ‘proper’ way to eat a pear is by slicing the top off and eating it “…with a teaspoon like a boiled egg!”

Of course, that only works with very ripe, lusciously soft pears. That’s why 200 pears at a time are brought to the royal kitchen so that the chefs can hand-select only the finest, most perfectly ripe specimens.

Other fruits the royal family enjoys are fresh strawberries from the Balmoral estate, white peaches from Windsor Castle’s greenhouses, apples, pineapple, and grapes.

Whenever possible, the queen prefers locally-sourced produce, much of it from the royal estates. Even the leaves garnishing the fruit platters are locally sourced. They’re picked from the family garden and each leaf is polished by hand before taking its place around the platter!

Rules the royal chefs must follow

Hand-selecting ripe pears is only one of the duties of the royal chefs. When they’re just starting out as a palace cook, they may be given the task of peeling and cutting carrots as treats for the queen’s beloved horses!

They also have to know which foods are banned from the palace kitchens. Garlic and excessive onions top the list. In fact, former palace chef John Higgins said he can tell if many supposed royal recipes are authentic or not by scanning them for garlic.

If the list of ingredients includes garlic, the recipe was definitely never served at the palace.

Starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and pasta are generally reserved for special occasions like state dinners. When the queen is eating lunch alone, she usually has small portions of grilled fish or lean meat with a salad or vegetables. No wonder she looks so healthy for her age.

Like most Brits, the monarch likes a traditional roast for Sunday dinner. Since she only eats well-done meat, the chefs carefully prepare the roast so that the ends (her favorite part) are well-done. With a large roast, the rest of the family can enjoy meat from the middle that isn’t as well done. Queen Elizabeth also enjoys venison, pheasant, grouse, and other wild game.

One type of meat banned from the royal table? Shrimp and other shellfish! Apparently, there’s too much risk of food poisoning. With their busy royal schedules, that’s not a risk they’re willing to take.

Etiquette at the royal table 

When you’re eating off of fine china that dates back to the early 19th century and using silverware made from gold-plated silver, your manners had better match your surroundings. That’s why there are etiquette classes available so you’ll be prepared for an invitation to that royal banquet.

You would never gobble your food at a royal banquet but it isn’t a good idea to dawdle, either. When the queen is done with a course, her page signals the footmen to start clearing the dishes — whether you’re done eating or not.

She also signals that the meal will be over within five minutes by placing her purse on the table. Maybe you’d better brush up on the queen’s famous purse signals as well as your etiquette — because you never know when or where you might meet royalty.

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