Perhaps it was inevitable that the coronation of King Charles wouldn’t pass without some kind of spat with the French. And a contretemps has emerged, not surprisingly over an age-old issue: food.
French purists have taken issue with the “coronation quiche,” which was unveiled by Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, last month. The royal couple said their version of the light pastry – made with spinach, broad beans and tarragon – was simple to cook and ideal for picnics because it could be served hot or cold. They hoped the quiche would be a centrepiece for street parties across the country during the coronation weekend and find a permanent place in the British diet.
The royal recipe got a thumbs down from Évelyne Muller Dervaux, grand master of the Brotherhood of Quiche Lorraine, located in Dombasle-sur-Meurthe in the heart of the Lorraine region in northwest France.
For Ms. Muller Dervaux and the association, which protects the heritage of the baked delicacy, only quiche made with the traditional ingredients – eggs, cream and bits of ham or bacon – deserves the name; everything else is a tart or pie. This includes quiche that contains salmon, broccoli or even cheese. Or spinach and broad beans, as suggested for the coronation.
“Effectively, the dish that will be served would be better called a ‘tart,’ ” she said in an e-mail. “The word ‘quiche’ is from Lorraine. By definition, and etymologically speaking, ‘quiche Lorraine’ would be a redundancy. In the case of the dish served at the coronation of the king, we will therefore rather speak of a savory pie, a spinach pie.”
King Charles isn’t the only high-profile person to run into trouble over quiche.
In February, renowned French chef Philippe Etchebest caused an uproar after he published a recipe for quiche that included cheese. “I can already hear the purists crying foul because we don’t put cheese in quiche Lorraine. Well, I do, because I like cheese,” he said at the time.
A French organization called the National Union for the Defence and Promotion of Authentic Quiche Lorraine hit back. “A quiche is not like a couscous, you can’t add whatever you want,” the group said in a statement.
Although quiche nowadays is widely seen as a French dish, its origin can be traced back to Germans in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen. A section of land that borders Germany and France changed hands repeatedly and is now known as Lorraine. In the 1500s, the Germans started making an open pie with pieces of meat and called it kuchen, which means cake. It evolved into quiche after France took hold of the territory.
The pastry’s versatility made it a popular staple in homes and restaurants around the world. That changed somewhat in the 1980s after the release of the book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche by American humorist Bruce Feirstein. But quiche in all its variations has bounced back in recent years.
There have been other coronation delicacies.
Queen Elizabeth released a “coronation chicken” recipe during her crowning in 1953. It consisted of diced chicken covered in a creamy sauce and a touch of curry powder.
While that dish is still popular in Britain, mainly as a sandwich filling, King Charles has a way to go in generating excitement for his quiche.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a senior Conservative MP and former cabinet minister, turned up his nose when the quiche was served to a group of British parliamentarians this week. “I don’t like quiche. It’s disgusting, I wouldn’t dream of having it,” Mr. Rees-Mogg said. “And it’s got broad beans in it, which are loathsome.”
Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, said the quiche was not exactly an inspired choice for a king. “It seems mild-mannered, almost safe – perhaps fitting for a coronation seemingly designed not to offend anyone,” she wrote this week.
It was even hard to find much interest in the “coronation quiche” among the diehard monarchists who have camped out along The Mall this week in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Royals during Saturday’s coronation ceremony.
When approached on Thursday, several campers hadn’t tried the quiche yet and a few were turned off by the recipe.
“I just looked at the ingredients and it’s not the kind of quiche I’d like,” said Mary Foster, 47, who is originally from Montreal and set up her tent on Wednesday. Her friend Billy Powell, 52, who is from Toronto, also wasn’t keen. “I love quiche but not those ingredients,” he said. “I understand where the French are coming from.”