If the coronation quiche took most of us by surprise when it made its debut on the royal family’s Twitter account on Monday lunchtime (17 April), the reaction from some quarters was depressingly predictable. Nigel Farage told Australian television that his heart sank at the news, describing it as the “dullest, most uninspiring and most politically correct dish that has ever been produced for a major occasion… truly ghastly”.
Farage’s followers, meanwhile, labelled the “bloody woke coronation quiche” as the “dull and boring as the future [sic] king” on his “Eco Nett Zero band wagon [sic]”, with one objecting that “surely it should be vegetarian ‘flan’, now that we’re out of the EU. What was the point of vote leave if we can’t rid ourselves of mucky French food?”
It’s safe to say that, though the King and Queen Consort are said to have chosen a vegetable quiche for its mass appeal, not everyone is impressed. Some of the considerable ire appears to be directed at the fact that the only meat comes in the form of a modest amount of lard in the pastry, which is seen as the King pushing a green agenda – “Perhaps,” Farage mused on GB News, a “hint that we should all be going vegetarian at least to begin with, and perhaps vegan hereafter… really, really disappointing” – but the real issue here, I suspect, is the word quiche, which predates tofu and the entire London Borough of Islington as a trigger for right-wing rage.
Thanks to Bruce Feirstein’s 1982 book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, a satirical work whose satirical content seems to have passed many men by, the terms “quiche eater” became, as the chef Gabrielle Hamilton wrote in the New York Times, “a casual slur to describe feminists and liberals, effeminates and intellectuals alike”. (The cookery writer Jill Probert advised readers of the Liverpool Daily Post to call it a savoury flan when men were around.)
But prior to that, despite its minimal meat content, the innocuous quiche seems to have ruffled few feathers since migrating from the Franco-German Lorraine region in the early 20th century… though according to the food writer Sam Bilton, similar savoury custard tarts have been made in this country since the medieval period. “Quiche is just a mid-20th century rebranding of an existing thing,” historian Dr Annie Gray agrees, but certainly by the 1930s, the Lorraine variety was a familiar enough concept for the Sunday Mirror’s cookery column to describe it “a good supper dish” rather than anything particularly new or exotic.
Farage (born 1964) claims the royal recipe, with its double cream, eggs, cheese and butter, reminds him of the kind of thing people were forced to eat in wartime – though I doubt those who endured the 1944 Ministry of Food version made with dried egg and milk would see the similarity. He – unlike Charles, given royal menus are always written in French – no doubt grew up knowing it as flan, another French loan word, served up by dinner ladies in rectangular slabs. Indeed, the redoubtable Fanny Cradock includes a quiche au jambon in the French volume of her Common Market Cookery TV-tie in series from 1973 which reads very much like a flan, but with imported gruyère instead of British cheddar. No doubt young Nigel avoided rushing out for the ingredients.
But having a long-established presence in the country does not, on its own, account for why this particular recipe has been chosen – after all, there are many (arguably more exciting), more familiar dishes better suited to mass catering, tight budgets and varying dietary requirements. The idea that, like their first official overseas visit as King and Queen Consort to Germany, the quiche is a hopeful hat-tip to better relations with our continental neighbours is a nice one, as is the idea that they just did it to annoy the likes of Nigel Farage.
Then again, Charles eats a vegetarian menu two days a week, both he and his wife are enthusiastic champions of homegrown, seasonal produce from their many kitchen gardens… and the former Buckingham Palace chef Darren McGrady claims he often made quiche for the future King, as he “loves anything with eggs and cheese”. All of which suggest that, though it’s tempting to see the coronation quiche as a political statement, the simplest explanation may well be the correct one. Maybe they just like quiche.