Yes, Queen Elizabeth II may have starred in a video earlier this year with Paddington Bear and declared her love for marmalade sandwiches, but that doesn’t mean we should leave the sticky treat outside Buckingham Palace in her honor. According to TODAY, among the flowers, signs, and other tributes being left outside the palace are many marmalade sandwiches, and those sandwiches are negatively affecting wildlife. The irony is twofold: jam sandwiches have been traditionally associated with times of poverty, something the queen certainly never experienced firsthand, and it was in fact a lovable bear, a symbol of wildlife, who brought the marmalade sandwich into the spotlight.
Jam sandwiches have been a part of the United Kingdom’s culinary landscape since the late 19th century, when as a result of trade restrictions ending, the country could import cheap wheat and start churning out cheap loaves of bread, according to The Guardian. Around the same time, jam was one of the first foods to be manufactured by local factories. The combination of cheap bread and cheap jam made for an easily accessible meal for the country’s poorest residents.
Marmalade is essentially a cousin to jam, unique in that it’s a preserve that’s almost always made from citrus rind or peel. So it makes sense why this would be interchanged with berry jams for one of the U.K.’s signature meals. And in 1958 with the publication of A Bear Named Paddington, marmalade sandwiches became something of a cultural phenomenon. The anthropomorphized bear proudly declares marmalade sandwiches as his favorite food and keeps one under his red bucket hat at all times in case of an emergency.
The spread became a favorite of English residents of a certain age, as shown through what we have called “The Marmalade Letters,” and just as millennials were being maligned for “killing marmalade,” that charming bear returned to the zeitgeist once again to reignite the marmalade craze with the universally beloved films Paddington (2014) and Paddington 2 (2017). Then, of course, in June of this year, in celebration of her Platinum Jubilee, Paddington met with the Queen, who revealed that she always keeps marmalade sandwiches in her purse, leading to the current overflow of sandwiches at royal landmarks.
Much has been written about what Queen Elizabeth II supposedly ate and didn’t: We know her “guilty pleasure” was a bunless venison burger, that she was known to enjoy four cocktails a day, and that if she is eating marmalade sandwiches, they’re sandwiches without any pointy edges.
Despite her royal stature and having ingredients for any meal at her fingertips, most reports show that Queen Elizabeth II had fairly simple tastes. According to Delish, a former footman shared that palace staff often ate more lavishly than the queen herself. The queen loved game meat, gin cocktails, Earl Gray tea, chocolate biscuit cake, and, yes, crustless sandwiches. If you want to honor her memory, go ahead and prepare a similar meal for yourself, just don’t drop off any more sandwiches outside of Buckingham Palace. They can’t be good for the squirrels.