(This is a series of posts from a class I taught at R.U.M.)
(Food in the royalty room when royalty arrive i.e. breakfast/brunch): It is usually very welcomed. Whether or not to provide food in the royalty room is completely up to the host group. Whether or not it is wanted or desired by the royalty varies depending on the set of royalty. Important Note: If you don’t let the royalty know before they arrive (as in, you’re hoping to surprise them), they will likely bring their own or eat on the way to the site. Then all that food you prepared will go to waste. As to the type of morning foods, stay away from the inclination to provide a tray full of pastries. They are full of morning sunshine and happiness but, you are best to provide healthy choices such as some fresh fruit, Scotch eggs, bacon, small whole-grain muffins, 100% juice and water (and maybe some caffeinated beverages for those who like them). A reign takes a toll on a waistline and it’s often because the hosting groups provide way too much awesome-tasting yet high-fat/high-calorie foods (and who can resist those!?), in addition to all the fast-foods that are consumed while traveling. Be sure to check with TRM’s chamberlain. It is okay to not-provide food. It is not expected but it is appreciated. If you choose to provide food, you do not need to put out a big spread. Enough for the royalty and their retainers is plenty. Quality over quantity. They just need enough to break their fast and hold them until lunchtime. The royalty doesn’t want to have to spend all day in the royalty room. They need to get dressed and get organized as quickly as possible so they can get out and “be” the royalty. Again, plenty of communication with their chamberlain well before the event is best so that everyone knows what to expect.
Why yes, lunch would be delightful! The Midrealm is very generous and the royalty are very thankful to consistently be recipients of that generosity. As stated in the comments about food in the morning, it is not required. However, it is always welcome and is a great help to their day. With all the regalia that royalty have to haul to events and all the planning involved in just preparing for an event, there is rarely room to add a cooler of their own food nor is there adequate time to shop for and prepare that food. If your group will be providing lunch for the royalty, work with their chamberlain well ahead of the event. Consider that the king will likely be fighting and so may the queen. That means that the timing of food will be important. Some fighters don’t eat while fighting because it sits heavy in their stomachs and can cause stomach upset. How much food are you preparing? Are you planning to feed just the royalty, the royalty and their personal retainers, the royalty and any local retainers-on-duty during lunch? Are you expecting the royalty to invite others to join them (if so, how many – let the royalty know before the event and remind their head retainer early in the day – if this is told to the royalty at the last minute, they might not have any idea who to invite)? Communication is key. Work with TRM’s chamberlain well ahead of the event so that they know what to expect. Another thing to consider is the location of the lunch. Some royalty would like to take a break and have their lunch in the royalty room. Some royalty believe the royalty need to be in view of the populace as much as possible and prefer to have lunch served at the dais. Is the food to be plated and served? Is the food set out on a table and self-serve? Will plates, flatware, and napkins be provided or will royalty need to have someone pull out the royal feast gear (and if so, is there a place to clean it before feast)?
One of the most medieval things you can do for TRMs is to bring the lunch board to Them at Their thrones. Set up a couple of saw horses and make a show of bringing in the luncheon feast to set before TRMs.
Of course, the royalty will stay for feast. IT is rare when They cannot stay so you should still check with Their Chamberlain. If there is a feast at the event, it is expected that a head table will be provided for the royalty and their invited guests. When the royalty are seated at the head table, it looks best when there is symmetry at the table. This means, if you are going to accommodate the royalty inviting people to sit at the head table, you should plan for them to invite people in groups of four (4, 8, 12). This, of course, could change if only one of the royalty is at the event and has not chosen a companion to join them at the head table.
Usually, TRM’s lead retainer or the ranking peer will coordinate this. Middle Kingdom tradition is that the highest ranked person in the room (except the royalty themselves) gives the first toast to TRMs. The second highest ranked person gives the second toast to TRHs (even if they are not present). If it seems no one has remembered, locate and talk to the highest-ranked non-royal person who can start the toasts. The toasts typically start after the first course has been delivered to all the tables. The royalty usually toast the cooks and servers after the last course has been delivered to the tables. There may be times when the local landed Baron and Baroness also are sitting at head table or visiting royalty from other kingdoms. Please speak to TRM’s lead retainer privately (preferably before feast) regarding how they wish to have toasts to proceed. Educate the people in your group about these traditions.
Most people go home from an event and don’t have to worry about all their belongings for another month or two (or sometimes longer). The royalty likely have to go to another event next weekend. When someone from the staff can take TRM’s feast dishes back to the kitchen and give them a good cleaning, it is a huge help to their schedule. If you can’t get them properly washed but can at least get them rinsed off, please let them know that they were only rinsed so they know to give them a thorough cleaning at home. If you cannot clean them at all, you might want to provide garbage bags into which they can pack the feast gear so that it doesn’t soil the interior of the regalia boxes.
General comments about food for royalty
Strong Odors: Regarding food in the royalty room, consider the “odor” of the food plus the size and ventilation of the room. E.g. Don’t lay out a tray full of shrimp in a 10×10 room. Very nice gesture but it will turn Her Majesty’s stomach the next time she walks in there. Foods with strong odors are ideal candidates for serving food on a table near the dais.
Feast Gear or Not: If you are providing day-foods for the royalty (breakfast, brunch, lunch), please consider providing plates, drinking vessels, napkins, flatware, whenever possible. Disposable is perfectly acceptable if served in the royalty room’s closed environment. It is not convenient to dig out the royal feast gear for eating in the royalty room then to find a place to have it cleaned for the evening’s feast. The royalty may choose to bring another set of dishes for these daytime meals – as long as they know ahead of time about the meals and where they will be served. As always, this is why clear and frequent communications with TRM’s chamberlain is so important.
Food temperature: Is the food supposed to be served warm? If so, find a way to keep it warm. If it can’t be kept warm (TRM’s schedule gets out of whack and they may be late to lunch) consider serving only cold foods. If it’s supposed to be served cold but the day is extremely hot, consider a bowl-within-a-bowl with ice in the outer bowl.
Outdoor food: Cover it to keep the flies and bees off the food.
Serving Utensils: Provide a way to serve food items (including something for condiments/sauces). The royalty do not travel with serving utensils.
Timing: Check with TRM’s chamberlain regarding the timing of lunch. But, when asking, be sure to include a schedule of the day’s activities. There are so many things that could affect the scheduling of lunch. E.g. if the royalty choose to have a peerage meeting during the lunch hour, plan to have the food ready for them to eat during the meeting. Also, you can expect that a peer of that order can bring the food to TRM. You will not be allowed to serve into the peerage meeting unless you are a member of that order. Even TRM’s retainers cannot enter a peerage meeting.
Likes, dislikes, allergies: Check TRM’s website for food allergies, preferences, and aversions. Contact their chamberlain regarding the menu if possible. Even with all the items listed in the likes and dislikes, they may prefer just a roast beef sandwich and an apple for lunch vs. a huge spread of delicacies. Be careful about the “likes” section of TRM’s website. When they have to eat their “likes” at every event, they start getting tempted to remove them from the list. If His Majesty indicates that he doesn’t like something, don’t prepare it for him just because you think you can make it in a way that he will like. If you overhear His Majesty mention that he likes cocktail weenies, don’t assume they’re his favorite and he wants to eat a crockpot full of them at every opportunity. Sharing a menu with TRMs is not about them requiring that you get their approval, it’s a courtesy to allow clear communications. If no one is going to eat the mushroom and leek pie you made, it would be good to know that you shouldn’t bother to make it. TRM’s chamberlain will likely inform your royalty liaison regarding food allergies. It wouldn’t hurt for your royalty liaison to specifically ask about this just to be sure no one forgets to cover this information. Make sure any local retainers you have lined up to retain during the day and anyone preparing food for TRMs is told about these allergies.
Leftovers: If there is food you provide to TRMs that you intend to have them take home with them, be sure their chamberlain knows well ahead of the event. It’s possible they don’t have room to bring a cooler for storing the food for the trip home. Consider offering the leftovers to the local staff who is working so hard on the event or send it off to a post-revel. If it is something special made specifically for TRMs, please provide a way for them to transport it in a food-safe manner.