• 2022.06.22
  • The “Real Cocina” and Alfonso XIII
Following on from my last article, I hope you stay with me for this article about the Spanish royal family and the kitchen in the Royal Palace. Prince Alfonso, the son of Queen Isabel II, whom I wrote about before, left Spain together with his mother, moved to Paris, then lived in various places including Geneva and Vienna, he studied at military school in England before returning to Spain, and in 1875 assumed the Spanish throne to become Alfonso XII. He reigned for 11 years and died prematurely at the age of 28.
He was succeeded by his son, Alfonso XIII. His Majesty the King was the last king to eat the food cooked in the palace kitchen that is now open to the public. Just as his grandmother, Queen Isabel II, had been exiled to Paris, the outcome of a popular vote in April 1931 led him to leave the Royal Palace, he headed to Italy, living the life of an exile in Rome. The palace kitchen was not used as a place for preparing meals during the republican period without a king, then the civil war, and the era of Franco’s dictatorship, up until a constitutional monarchy was established in Spain with the current Felipe VI as its monarch. Photo 1 shows the Royal Kitchen in the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Photo 1

Like his grandmother, Alfonso XIII was fond of Spanish cuisine, so much so that His Majesty had his menus written in Spanish, thereby breaking with the traditional custom of writing them in French. Photo 2 shows the first such menu, the menu for His Majesty’s luncheon on February 13, 1906 (“SM” means “Su Majestad,” or “Your Majesty”).

Photo 2

Almuerzo de S.M. Your Majesty’s Luncheon, February 13, 1906
Sopa de sémola Semolina Soup
Huevos fritos á la Española Spanish-style Fried Eggs*
Salmonetes á la Andaluza Andalusian-style Deep-fried Red Mullet
Filetes de ternera con arroz Veal Steak with Rice
Legumbres variados Vegetable Assortment
Pollos asados Roast Chicken
Natillas Custard

* Unlike Japanese fried eggs, more oil is used, and rather than shallow frying, the eggs are deep-fried, true to the dish’s name.

Photo 3

Photo 3 shows a close-up of “An Old Woman Cooking Eggs,” a painting by Velázquez in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery. I think you can see from this painting that she is using plenty of oil, and she is using the wooden spoon in her hand to spoon hot oil over the top of the eggs to partially cook the yolks. Photo 4 shows orthodox Spanish-style fried (or deep-fried?) eggs.

Photo 4

In 1908, wives of US Senators and Representatives established the Congressional Club in Washington DC. One of their projects was a collection of recipes representing countries from across the world, not just the US, published in book-form, The Congressional Club Cook Book, in 1927. In collecting the recipes for the book, they called for assistance from the ambassadors of the various countries. For the dishes representing Spain, the Spanish Ambassador’s wife provided recipes for Valencian Rice, Castillian Chicken, and Croquettes From Madrid, among others, while the US Ambassador to Spain provided a recipe for Lobster a l’Americaine (for some reason this was considered a Spanish recipe). The Ritz Hotel in Madrid gave the method for making paella.

Photo 5
For the pièce de résistance, His Majesty Alfonso XIII happened to hear about the project and personally provided 2 recipes for his own favorite dishes. Photo 5 shows on the left-hand page the recipe for Spain’s national dish, Spanish Omelet, and the recipe for the stewed chickpea dish, “El Cocido Madrileno” (Madrid Cocido), which his grandmother, Queen Isabel II dined on once a week while in exile in Paris, a story I wrote about in my last article. In Spain you use olive oil to fry the potato for this omelet, but the recipe in this book says to use lard, and it also includes butter to finish it off, which is not used in Spain. Perhaps they selected ingredients that were easier to obtain in the US, or that suited the American palate better.

It is not surprising then that while living in Paris, a gourmand King who loved the cuisine of his home country invited the young Crown Prince of Japan, the future Emperor, to dine with him. I guess the menu featured his own favorite Spanish dishes. This took place during the 6-month visit to Europe by Crown Prince Hirohito between March 3 and September 3, 1921.

The Crown Prince met with a large number of important people, as well as attending welcome ceremonies, banquets, and so on, in countries across Europe, and the meeting and the meal with the Spanish King amid that schedule do not appear on the official records. I am sure it was indeed a memorable experience for Crown Prince Hirohito, who was merely 20 years of age. He may have known that the Spanish King was the only monarch who had been nominated for a Nobel Prize, for his humanitarian activities in the preceding Great European War.

When the former King, Juan Carlos I visited Japan in 1980, the reigning Showa Emperor said to him, “Long ago I was invited by your grandfather to a meal.” The unofficial dinner party in Paris took place on June 28, 1921, so perhaps the Emperor had fond memories of his Spanish encounter some 60 years previously.
My article is about Spain, so while this is redundant, the cuisine of my country, Japan, also played a part in the book I mentioned, the Congressional Club Cook Book. The Japanese recipe was provided by Nobuko Matsudaira, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the USA at the time. She could think of numerous possible recipes when she was asked, but from among those chose a popular Japanese dish that could be made with ingredients readily available in the US at the time: sukiyaki. Starting with the background, Madame Ambassador devised a recipe that would suit the local circumstances and could be replicated in American households. So, if there was no sake at hand, it could be substituted by sherry, and beef could be substituted by pork or chicken. Photo 6 shows her detailed recipe. As you might expect, the method of pouring over a beaten raw egg does not feature in the recipe.

Photo 6


  • 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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