JOlder people don’t tend to eat as much as younger people. It’s just something I noticed – it’s not from a proper survey commissioned by Saga Holidays or a stairlift manufacturer, so you can’t rely on it. But it seems to me that they generally eat sparingly and cautiously, their days of sniffing gallons of carbs and cream and booze are now behind them. The older they are, the more this is the case, and so the plump pink of late middle age turns into an alert, edgy gray.
Which leads me to ask: is a big, brand new pudding really what Her Majesty The Queen wants as she celebrates 70 years on the throne? She will be 96 years old. Is this what she will crave as she mobilizes her resources for an intense period of commitments? A great big creamy platter. That’s the plan: a nationwide contest to come up with a platinum jubilee pudding to counterbalance the invention of the coronation chicken with which the reign began and which, for many, still repeats itself. Just thinking about it makes me feel bloated and I’m greedy, overweight and half his age.
The Fortnum & Mason Platinum Pudding competition is already drowning in submissions like a crumble in custard and it only launched a few days ago. I hope, for her, that the queen does not look at them. Food writer Alex Hollywood’s pitch, Eton pie with crunchy savory banoffee, seems calculated to induce type 2 diabetes with its name alone.
Other ideas contributed by famous cooks via the Daily mail include the jubilee crown meringue, the jubilee jammy roll cake, the jelly cherry jubilee – I just have a little sour in the back of my throat – and the sticky caramel pineapple rum pudding, the latter a contribution from the Hairy Bikers, of which Prince Philip was reportedly a fan. So it adds a nice touch of relevance and emotion to go with the lovely rum and the sugar and the dates and the pineapple and the rum and the butter and the molasses and the sugar.
Guardian readers have also joined the brand and are reassuring about the brand, with ideas such as banana bread, Queen Elizabeth tofu (a vegan version of coronation chicken, so not a pudding at all) and, of a reader in his seventies, the suggestion “I think it’s best to get rid of the whole interested structure, including all those lords and ladies”. Who knows, His Majesty might find that last notion the most palatable. The rise of a republic might be a blessed relief compared to a mall-length trestle table covered in trifles and toffee bottles.
But it’s not about what the queen wants or likes. “Her Majesty’s Pleasure” simply means jail or horse racing. It’s not her role to be seen as having something nice. In fact, it is the key to the survival of the monarchy that it does not have. How else can a society that vehemently aspires to be egalitarian, where even sociopathic crooks and power mongers speak of “race to the top”, absorb so much wealth, influence and fame lavished on a random person? And a woman, no less! Perhaps the most despised of all genders.
The British monarch is treated, albeit cartoonishly, as a minor deity, an icon, an intercessor with the almighty. It is not a position the queen has earned, nor a position anyone could deserve. Thus, instead of deserving it, it is vital that it is seen in order not to take advantage of it. Suffering is a far more powerful appeasement of envy than merit could ever be.
And it must be so with pudding. I don’t know which substance will win the contest. Hope it’s edible. But I doubt it’s delicious even for people with more voracious appetites for glucose than the average 96-year-old anointed ruler. The reason for my concern is that this food has to tick so many boxes. It’s supposed to taste good, yes, but it must also, according to contest officials, have “a memorable story”, be easy for many home bakers to recreate, look “fit for the Queen” and be original. In my view, the last four requirements militate powerfully against the first. Easy, spectacular, never-before-prepared foods with anecdotes associated with cracking are far less likely to taste good than tried-and-true chocolate mousse that isn’t topped with a sparkling rendition of sculpted “E II R” in quick-drying mouldable marzipan.
So whatever wins will be fudge – metaphorically at least. And then he will be presented to the queen. I can’t wait to see this scene, having enjoyed the footage of her failing to cut a huge cake she was presented with at the WI Centennial at Albert Hall. Princess Anne had to help. But this occasion should be even more special because, presumably, the queen will be expected to eat anything.
I can take a picture of it now. Millions are gathered on the mall swept by the wind and the rain. It was the coldest June on record and led Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to backtrack on most of his government’s climate programs. BBC and ITN microphones pick up the thunderous downpour as it connects to the thousands of square meters of marquee that has covered much of central London. Next, the Queen appears all dressed in bright yellow, wearing sparkly earrings which Penny Junor says means she is thinking of Prince Andrew.
And here is the winning pudding – the nation has been talking about it for weeks. Jubilee Glazed Mint Fennel Salted Caramel Flapjack Cheesecake! It’s all in Balmoral form and so detailed that images of the cake are later deemed a security risk and removed from news websites.
This time, the cutting is not left to chance. He is cared for by a charity worker who looks like a plump Theresa May and wears a huge blue hat that emits small jets of rainwater every time she turns her head. The Queen squints as she receives a facial, then is handed a plate of pudding and a wooden spoon. All eyes are on the royal mouth as a piece enters it. An eternity of chewing, laborious swallowing, an attempt at a smile, a dry cough.
“Delicious,” said the queen.