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Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Food Fit for a King. Shhhh!

Dining recently at The Hungry Cat restaurant in Hollywood, I noticed there was a side item on the menu called Forbidden Black Rice.  Figuring it was high falutin’ hyperbole, on the part of the chef whose restaurant sits on some serious prime real estate in West Los Angeles, the meal came and the rice was insanely delicious (no exaggeration).  Wildly curious, I questioned the waitress (Server? Victual Transporter? What are they called these days?) to find out the back story of this outrageous rice and she told me it was originally only grown for the Emperors in China.  Well, kiss China on the forehead for me for making this royal rice available for us common diners (though the man who sat at the bar talking about his Cartier watch and $1,200 Le Mer skin creme might bristle at that label).


The remainder of that night went by in a blur, not because such a good time was had by all, but because all I could think about the rest of the evening was, “What other secret royal foods are out there?”  Seriously.  We can have all of the high fructose corn syrup we want (or never asked for) and a burger ‘n’ fries or chicken ‘n’ biscuit joint on every highway and byway from California to Florida, so we already know the answer to What Do the Simple Folk Do (ooh, sidebar — I <3 Camelot!).


During excavations at Windsor Castle a couple of decades ago, archaeologists found remains of the food eaten by the royal family sometime between the 1100’s and mid 1300’s.  It’s just an observation on my part, but those folks seemed to adhere rather strictly to the Atkins Diet, based on the amount of bones that were found.  In addition to some domestic animal remains, the crews mostly found bones from wild species like rabbits, hares, boar, deer and venison that from were pulled from garbage, ash and cesspits (ye olde medieval outhouse).  Much of the food eaten by the royals was the most expensive and included highly prized species of swan, peacock, wading birds, songbirds and I quote the scientists here, “things we think of as inedible today, like heron and bittern”.  Personally, I’m weirded out by the concept that songbirds were ever mentioned by chefs to their royal highnesses – but looking at the list, it’s all pretty strange. 


During the Middle Ages, the upper class looked down on foods pulled from the ground (gauche!) and limited their vegetables to items such as rape, onions, garlic and leeks.  Those royals, with their big ol’ diets rich in protein and poor in leafy greens.  Got gaut?  I’m not sure I could do it.  They did, however, like their dishes highly (expensively) spiced and treasured their sweets, so I’m not gonna lie, I might have been happy in the King’s food court.


Going back a weeee bit further, the Aztec rulers in the 15th century truly cornered the market on the whole food-fit-for-a-king thing.  Those guys kept the best of everything, including corn and vegetables, for themselves.  Some of their finest foods are still with us today, traces of their rich heritage retained by their names which are derived from the ancient Nahuatl language: ahuacatl (avocado) xi/tomatl (tomato) and xocolatl (chocolate)!  They say that Moctezuma II liked a frothy vanilla, chocolate and honey drink.  You don’t need to be feared by nations to appreciate that, my gold headdressed friend.


The jewels of a Tsar or Sultan may never find their way into my little wooden jewelry box, but their food choices can surely make their way into my kitchen!  I’m going to pass on the crazier dishes like sugared wading birds or Aztec people stew (cannibalism can NOT be good for your arteries) but, a little guacamole and pico de gallo with my Forbidden black rice at lunch and some hot chocolate later in the evening with a friend (or good book)?  Huzzah!! I am the queen!

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