Sutter Home Wine’s November Book Club Pick: Mrs Queen Takes the Train!
Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn was chosen by Sutter Home Wine as their November Book Club Pick! Welcome William to The Secret Ingredient Blog as he gives the details on how to make lamb chops fit for a Queen! Pair with a glass of cabernet sauvignon for a truly royal experience.
After decades of service and years of watching her family’s troubles splashed across the tabloids, Britain’s Queen is beginning to feel her age. She needs some proper cheering up. An unexpected opportunity offers her relief: an impromptu visit to a place that holds happy memories—the former royal yacht, Britannia, now moored near Edinburgh. Hidden beneath a skull-emblazoned hoodie, the limber Elizabeth (thank goodness for yoga) walks out of Buckingham Palace into the freedom of a rainy London day and heads for King’s Cross to catch a train to Scotland. But a characterful cast of royal attendants has discovered her missing. In uneasy alliance a lady-in-waiting, a butler, an equerry, a girl from the stables, a dresser, and a clerk from the shop that supplies Her Majesty’s cheese set out to find her and bring her back before her absence becomes a national scandal.
Mrs Queen Takes the Train is a clever novel, offering a fresh look at a woman who wonders if she, like Britannia herself, has, too, become a relic of the past. William Kuhn paints a charming yet biting portrait of British social, political, and generational rivalries—between upstairs and downstairs, the monarchy and the government, the old and the young. Comic and poignant, fast paced and clever, this delightful debut tweaks the pomp of the monarchy, going beneath its rigid formality to reveal the human heart of the woman at its center.
Do you imagine Britain’s Queen dining lavishly in her castles and palaces, surrounded by courtiers, family, and state visitors? Well, yes, she has to do that for work, but she finds it a relief to take the occasional luncheon on her own. This is her solitary meal one day in Mrs Queen Takes the Train: “a single lamb chop with a thimble full of mint jelly. Three Brussels sprouts. A steamed carrot. A glass of burgundy.” She sits at her table on a wintry afternoon looking out on the palace garden, the light in the sky already diminishing, and the rain turning to sleet.
I think we often need things to cheer us up as the autumn days shorten, and the Queen is no exception. She makes an unscheduled journey after her lunch to one of the places that has made her happiest, the royal yacht, Britannia, now moored as a tourist attraction outside Edinburgh. Trouble is, she hasn’t told anyone where she’s going, and dressed up in the strange costume she happens to be wearing, no one recognizes her. That’s how she finds herself, after her lunch, on a public train to Scotland.
There’s no need to do anything so drastic to cheer yourself up. Making yourself a decent lunch or dinner is a sure way to feel better. (Boarding trains to Scotland not required.) Standing at the counter to have a cold yogurt for your lunch is very depressing. So have this hot luncheon fit for a queen instead.
Garlic-Herb Lamb Chops
• 1 garlic clove, pressed
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, lightly crushed
• 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, lightly crushed
• 1 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Two or three1 1/4-inch-thick lamb loin chops
Combine everything but the lamb chops in a medium bowl. Add the lamb and turn to coat. Marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat a heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add the lamb and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the lamb chops to desired doneness, about 8 to 10 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb to a platter, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes.
Note: If you don’t have the fresh herbs, you can substitute dried. Mint jelly or mint sauce is the traditional British accompaniment to lamb, but if you don’t have any, try boiling some small red potatoes until they’re done, then toss them in butter and chopped mint leaves (and here fresh mint is better than dried).
I leave the making of the steamed carrot and the Brussels sprouts to you, but there should be some different colors on the plate, no matter which vegetables you use.