Around 1847, with several illnesses being attributed to poorly kept and treated beef, King Carlo Alberto of Savoy which lies in the northwest of Italy passed a uniform ban on beef sausages. He, however, realised that in the process, he might lose out on one of his most beloved foods. The ‘Salsiccia di Bra’ thus turned out to be the only Italian food whose production actually enjoys the protection of a royal decree. This particular beef sausage which is normally eaten raw as part of the traditional antipasti or as an appetiser still enjoys royal protection despite the dismantling of the monarchy.
The Prince of Wales who would later rule England as Edward VII is once known to have remarked on the quality of the cows belonging to Bristol. What the young prince and later king was discussing wasn’t the dairy industry but rather a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fine sherry that was blended there called ‘Bristol milk’ and a premium sherry known as ‘Bristol cream’. The king would have been a fine judge of the quality since it used to be the medicine of choice for royal nannies and harried mothers to soothe their wards during their teething pangs.
When sixty-two-year-old King Edward VII ascended the throne, he still considered himself the wayward prince. His penchant for partying was legendary. Quite afraid that his latest liege would do untoward harm to himself, the royal physician passed an order in 1903 to a local merchant of good standing to prepare a reinvigorating drink that could accompany the monarch in his hip flask. Accordingly ‘Berry Bros & Rudd’ created a concoction which combined ginger, honey, and lemon with brandy and aptly named it ‘The King’s Ginger’. The drink quickly caught on with the nobility and the landed gentry only trickling down to the unruly masses several decades later.
The story of ‘Unicum’ the almost black herbal Hungarian liqueur has eerily similar origins. In 1790, the royal physician József Zwack wanted to develop something to help ease the digestion process of Emperor Joseph II of the Hapsburg Empire. The formula for his patented beverage contained a blend of over forty herbs and the results that they produced earned them the title ‘unicum’ meaning ‘unique’ from the emperor himself!
When Belize achieved independence around 1985, they scored a visit from Queen Elizabeth II. At the royal banquet, undeterred by the presence of their pedigreed guest, the chefs served up ‘gibnut’ as a main course. The gibnut is a large rodent and although a local delicacy, is considered bush meat by most. To see it in all its dressed-up culinary glory on a royal plate was an unprecedented move. The queen’s opinion on the subject is not known but ever since the royal palate sampled the offering, the humble gibnut was bestowed on the title of ‘royal rat’.
Priscos is a tiny little parish that lies in the northern Portuguese city of Braga. It would have passed off into anonymity if it wasn’t for the brilliant ‘Pudim Abade de Priscos’ that was created for King Luis and the royal family by Manuel Rebelo who was a chef of great repute. So wonderfully received was his decadent dessert, that the King even granted him an honorary title of ‘Abbot of Priscos’ for his efforts. The dish that granted him his fame was an absolutely rich composition of eggs and sugar that formed a velvety custard that was further enhanced with pork fat and port wine.
When the Persian Empire was at its peak, the span of control stretched all the way embracing most of Europe. Along with the lands they subjugated, the conquerors also decided to invest a bit into the culture and learn something along the way. Riders were sent to the far-flung corners of the empire to collect snow and ice for the royal repasts and to assist the hosts in combat the cruel and sweltering summers. There the ice was crushed and mixed with rosewater, cooked vermicelli, honey and a dash of lime to create the world’s first sorbet and frozen dessert called faloodeh. Strict rules forbade the imbibing of this expensive treat by anyone save the royal family. The faloodeh still exists although it has morphed into a wonderfully sublime treat with the addition of sour cherry syrup and pistachios.
The Mughal emperors in India took a leaf out of this recipe book and got in snow from the mountains in Kashmir. They blended rose extract with milk and vermicelli to create falooda which is pretty much like the original but leaning more towards a milkshake. That happened to be an added enticement for an entire subcontinent to enjoy this summery treat irrespective of the season.
Luckily for us, monarchies and the exclusivities attached have largely faded away. So when you get a chance, grab a bite or a sip; it would make you feel regal indeed!