• 2022.06.09
  • The “Real Cocina” and Queen Isabel II
The “Real Cocina” is the kitchen in the Royal Palace, Madrid. I guess it’s the equivalent of The Royal Kitchen in Buckingham Palace, London, or “Mizushidokoro” (Imperial Kitchen) in the Imperial Palace, Tokyo. When the Spanish capital was moved from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the fortified palace in Madrid called “Alcázar” was renovated to become the new royal residence, but then in 1734, a fire broke out on the night of Christmas eve and it was destroyed. Then Felipe V, from the French Bourbon royal family, ordered construction of the present-day palace in stone, to minimize concerns about fire.

Madrid is called the city with no middle-ages, it has few historical monuments, and the Royal Palace is now one of its sightseeing centerpieces, along with the Prado Museum. The Royal Palace represents the splendor of the Spanish Kingdom boasting more than 3,400 rooms, including the Throne Room, a symbol of royalty, the Banquet Hall, Chapel, His Majesty the King's Office, and bedrooms. It is partially open to the public only when there are no official functions. In recent years, renovations have been undertaken in the kitchen, which had not been used for a long time, going back to 1931. The kitchen too has been opened to the public and I went to have a look the other day. Photo 1 shows part of the kitchen currently open to the public. Photo 2 shows the kitchen when it was actually being used, in 1911. Photo 3 shows the words “COZINA D ESTADO” (“National Kitchen”) at the entrance to the main kitchen.

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

This is the kitchen where cooks cooked the meals eaten by generations of kings and their family members, privileged guests, as well as court officials, including servants, starting from the reign of Carlos III, the first resident of the new Royal Palace. The palace itself was built on the orders of a King from the French Bourbon royal family, and French cuisine was esteemed to be the finest in Europe, so, as a rule, it was French chefs who took charge of the kitchen over the generations, and naturally, the menu mainly featured French dishes.
With the passage of time, there were advances in cooking techniques and equipment, wherein the kitchen underwent major refurbishment, in the time of Queen Isabel II and her son Alfonso XII, between 1861 and 1880, rendering the kitchen we see today. Queen Isabel II was known as a queen of the people and preferred the food ordinarily served on the dinner tables of the citizens of Madrid. For example, she was fond of dishes like Callos a la Madrileña (stew with veal tripe, chorizo sausage, blood sausage, etc.) and Cocido Madrileño (Madrid Stew, also called the Spanish version of pot-au-feu, a stew with meat, vegetables, and chickpeas).* Apparently, she was particularly fond of the pork fat in the Cocido. Photo 4 shows Her Majesty the Queen near the age of 30, the generosity of her build suggesting she was a gourmand. “Queen Isabel II” by Germán Hernández Amores (about 1860), collection of the Prado Museum.

Photo 4

Her Majesty the Queen fled Spain following a revolution in 1868 and was exiled to Paris. Her residence was Palais de Castille (Castilla Palace), a palace purchased from Russian Ambassador Alexander Basilewski, located at 19 Avenue Kléber in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, which was known as a quiet residential area. In Paris she mostly stayed indoors, venturing out only to religious services or to a nearby café for hot chocolate. She is also said to have enjoyed on Sundays Cocido Madrileño,* a dish providing the taste of Madrid of which she was fond. I am sure it reminded her of her beloved Madrid, so far away. She returned to Madrid only once after her son Alfonso ascended the throne, then returned once more to Paris, and in 1904 she passed away at the Palais de Castille.
* I wrote about this dish in detail in my article on the Knowledge Capital website, “The Main Act is the Beans” (https://kc-i.jp/en/activity/kwn/yamada_s/20180208/), posted on February 8, 2018.

The palace later underwent many reincarnations and attracted continuing international attention. It became the Hôtel Majestic, a meeting place for cultural figures including Picasso, Proust, and Joyce, and became the hotel typifying Paris, a hotel where even such figures as Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief, made an appearance. In World War I it became a makeshift military hospital, then under German occupation in World War II it became the German military headquarters, and after serving as the first headquarters of UNESCO following the war, it became the international conference center for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the bogged down Vietnam War was brought to an end.
In 2007 the hotel was sold to a hotel chain based in Hong Kong and was again transformed spectacularly into Hotel The Peninsula Paris to currently be one of only a few ultra-super deluxe luxury hotels in Paris belonging to the Palace class of hotels, a class higher than the usual 5-star hotel. It would be wonderful if the hotel put a nice touch to the April 10 anniversary of the death of the Spanish Crown who drew her last breath some 118 years ago on this spot, and remember her by serving the Cocido Madrileño the Queen loved, but the chic restaurant in the hotel has 2 shining stars, so I guess it might be out of place for them to serve a hotchpotch stew with chickpeas, pork, beef, chicken, various sausages, and vegetables.
Photo 5 shows the Cocido Madrileño served at a restaurant near my home. The dish served before this was a soup with pasta.

Photo 5


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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