Opinion: Charles and Camilla pick wrong dish for the Coronation

Daily Report USA

King Charles III will be crowned alongside Queen Camilla in Westminster Abbey on May 6, and depending on your point of view, plans regarding the celebrations run the gamut from “radical and daring” to “basically what Grandpa would do.”

As royal commentators have breathlessly remarked for months, it’ll be a “pared down” affair, just over an hour long, with a guest list reportedly half the size of Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation. Members of the House of Lords have been asked to ditch their traditional robes and coronets in favor of relatively chill parliamentary ermine, the nobility’s equivalent of smart-casual.

Invitations feature the “Green Man,” a symbol seen by some as a mischievous pagan trickster, and by others as the vague invention of an early 20th-century lady — not un-fitting for our septuagenarian monarch.

The timbre of the arrangements is somewhat awkward. They’re diffuse with attempted modesty, but ultimately, the concoction typifies a man whose ideas around modesty were formed within the walls of the palaces and castles he grew up in. Nothing better encapsulates this tension than the signature dish Charles and Camilla have chosen: The Coronation Quiche.

Ignoring for a moment the cowardice of whoever sidestepped the superior moniker “Quiche Le Reign,” the French-inspired innovation is everything this minimally invested observer could’ve wished for. It’s rich, yet a little dour. Old-fashioned and predictable, but somehow off the mark. Meatless, signaling a preference for wholesomeness over celebratory excess, with suspiciously pro-European leanings. It’s the gastronomic equivalent of King Charles himself.

A little background. For starters, like Charles, the quiche has a tough act to follow. Coronation Chicken, his mother’s celebration dish, has borne the test of the last seven decades, despite steep odds. A heady mixture of chicken, mayonnaise, curry powder, dried apricots and whipping cream, it comes with uncomfortable colonial overtones, not to mention roughly one million calories per serving.

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Yet its fatty sweetness, elevated by a faint whisper of heat from the most unassuming spices, has seen its popularity endure. My late grandmother reliably served it whenever more than half a dozen family members congregated at her home.

Charles’ choice meanwhile represents a typical crash landing for a man whose ideas around accessibility are understandably askew. The ingredients — flour, butter, lard, eggs, cream, tarragon, spinach and beans — are all pretty cheap, but far more expensive in aggregate than buying a ready-made quiche.

Plus, as royal fans have been swift to point out, the UK is currently experiencing an egg shortage. “Have they seen the supermarket shelves recently?” moaned one Twitter user. Charles most likely hasn’t, so it’s only natural that his efforts to keep the coronation respectful of the cost of living crisis might stumble.

Speaking of things that are rich but flawed, there are a few other issues with the Coronation Quiche’s makeup. It’s to be expected that the King would skip the popular additions of ham or bacon. His majesty is famously rigorous when it comes to his diet, and eschews various animal products a few times per week. No one’s questioning the credentials of cheese and cream. But beans? Adding non-traditional ingredients is potentially fun and interesting, however you’d be hard-pressed to discover a foodstuff less apt to add piquancy to a dish — especially when, as is the case for most people, you don’t happen to own vegetable plots spilling over with fresh produce. This all points to the upsetting conclusion that beans made the cut on health grounds, and who in their right mind has ever had the thought “what this party needs is more fiber”?

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This leads us to the final conundrum. Prepared at home, preferably with the aid of a bona fide French chef (or a cookbook from one), I’m sure quiche can be a delight. Luscious savory custard, suspended within flaky golden pastry. Preferably bean free, but each to their own.

The trouble is, most people don’t eat home-cooked quiche. The quiche Brits most regularly encounter is bland, claggy and sold at supermarkets, often in depressing single-person portions to be consumed in lonely mouthfuls at our desks. As a friend of mine pointed out at the pub this week, quiche is more likely to be served at a funeral than at say, a wedding or birthday. Preliminary attempts to recreate the Coronation Quiche at home have yielded underwhelming results, with one commenter declaring it a “cold wet omelet.”

So, there we have it. A well-intended effort, but, one suspects, unlikely to become a staple at summertime lunches for generations to come. Only history will tell whether Charles himself will prove more memorable. Finally, the eagle-eyed reader may have noticed that this dissection has focused overwhelmingly on the King, which is perhaps unfair, given that it’s Queen Camilla’s coronation too. Having spent an embarrassing number of minutes wondering how she’d manifest as a commemorative foodstuff, I’m picturing a luxurious cottage pie. Or palace pie, if she’s got a sense of humor.

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