Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Generosity of Windsor (Let Them Make Bags)

HRH Prince of Wales is invading Waitrose - forcing the supermarket chain to stock only Duchy Originals for its organic food line.  The old Duchy Original brand is now the 'new' Duchy Originals from Waitrose line.  Even the innocent organic milk  must now bear the royal crest and insignia of the Prince.  If that isn't feudalism? is per se heritage.  Or in other words - the commercial enterprises of HRH Prince of Wales are ad hoc heritage - HRH's Royal prerogatives (in British law theoretically limitless)  are enticement enough to make Waitrose willing to give his lines exclusive rights to their grocery shelves.  The latest edition of Waitrose's weekend magazine has the appearance of a court circular.  The first pages are devoted to another princely scheme for educating the subject-consumer to waste not want not.  It is all disguised as fun - HRH Wales will be opening his Clarence House Gardens and those of nearby Lancaster House and Marlborough House for a mass "Garden Party".  The name of the event is quite ingenious combining the quintessentially British summer garden party - and more sinister connotations of a political party aiming at changing the way people live by "small steps" - so-called sustainable living.  The whole enterprise has an unmistakable whiff of home front austerity measures.   Garden parties in suburbia tend to be quite a cheap way of entertaining a large number of people.  The guests stand around outdoors for hours (no chairs needed) and just talk, drinking much but eating little. The main overhead costs besides alcohol is the rental price of the marquee. 

To tempt its customers to attend the Prince's "Garden Party", Waitrose announces an act of princely generosity: "Unwanted curtains previously used in Clarence House staff rooms and offices will be available for visitors to recycle into easy-to-make bags."  This sounds distinctly like the sort of occupations reserved for prison inmates.  Besides one can imagine all the centuries of dust, unidentifiable stains, fireplace smoke and and sheer feudal mustiness clinging to these "unwanted curtains".  "Staff room" means most likely the downstairs servant quarters, implying that for the Prince, servant and consumer-subject are one and the same.  Or rather the general subject is of a lesser grade than the staff of the palace - because the subject is just good enough to spend his or her time making bags out of the castoff curtains of the Royal servants.   Let them make bags.

In another act of commercialized heritage - one of the new desserts in the Duchy Originals from Waitrose range is 'creme brulee' - a typical English pudding.  Apparently the French also claim to have invented this dessert.  But Waitrose's research has uncovered the true origins of this sweet and they are bona fide British.  The unique taste of this custard dish derives from some oafish kitchen servant in the kitchens of Trinity College, Cambridge sometime in the early 17th century forgetting to put sugar in the custard and sprinkling it on top instead - giving the pudding its caramelised finish.  In keeping with the Prince of Wales' concern for heritage Waitrose informs its Weekend readers, they are  "harking back to crème brûlée's English origins by launching a dessert called Cambridge Burnt Cream (...)" all the more poignant as Trinity College, Cambridge is "the very same college attended by Duchy Originals founder HRH The Prince of Wales."  As another gesture of princely largesse - the cream dessert which has just now gone on sale comes with a sachet of sugar to sprinkle on top - anyone with a grill can reenact that original faux pas of the long dead scullion.


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