Sunday Times restaurant critic Giles Coren decided to go on the Edward VII diet for a week. Here’s Day 1 from his report
Breakfast: Porridge, sardines, curried eggs, grilled cutlets, coffee, hot chocolate, bread, butter, honey.
The meal is served at the Edwardian house in Barnes in which I am residing with my co-presenter Sue Perkins, and is cooked, as all our meals here will be, by the great Sophie Grigson from a weekly menu taken from an Edwardian housekeeping book.
I go at it full tilt, using the age-old technique of “surprising my stomach” by getting as much as possible down before it realises I am full. I do myself proud and end by wiping my fifth cutlet in the remaining curry sauce from my eggs. Sue, a demi-semi-vegetarian, has not fared so well, going green halfway through her first sardine. We discuss briefly how income tax at the preposterously low rate of 5 per cent freed up plenty of cash for eating, but are interrupted by Sophie ringing the bell to announce lunch.
Lunch: Sauté of kidneys on toast, mashed potatoes, macaroni au gratin, rolled ox tongue.
Good stuff, this. Toast all mulched with kidney fat and blood, macaroni good and rich, tongue gigantic and purple. It is exactly what Dr Petty wants me to avoid.
Afternoon tea: Fruit cake, Madeira cake, hot potato cakes, coconut rocks, bread, toast, butter.
High tea was invented by the Edwardians to stave off hunger during the endless minutes between lunch and dinner. Everything is very brown.
Dinner: Oyster patties, sirloin steak, braised celery, roast goose, potato scallops, vanilla soufflé.
Oysters, the gouty man’s nemesis. I swallow eight in my patties. I carve the goose, as the man of the house always did, and find that it is not easy in the stiff-fronted shirt I am wearing with my white tie, nor can I properly incline my neck to observe my work, what with the 3in-high stiff separate collar I am wearing, and thus very nearly lose a thumb. Sue says that I can shut up until I have worn a corset. Apparently her spleen and kidneys have already been forced up into her ribcage (a recognised problem of the Edwardian lady) and her stomach, contained in a waist now narrowed to the width of a toddler’s thigh, is no longer allowing ingress of food.
And so to bed. But up again an hour later for a midnight snack of roast chicken and Madeira. King Edward always took a roast chicken to bed with him, so it seems only right. Alas, after my chicken, I do not get back to sleep. I have consumed 5,000 calories in a single day, well over Dr Petty’s recommendation of 1,800, and toss and turn and rumble until dawn.
Er, from what I remember from the various biographies of Eddie, roast chickens weren’t the only things he took to bed with him.