Crabes à l’Indienne
Sauces curry – chutney
Crab meat, poached in a lightly spiced stock, dressed in a curry sauce and served atop a creole rice with chutney
Salad of endive. red cabbage and potato
Glace au Caramel
Dinner host:ess: the widowed Duchess of Windsor photographed in 1974, the year of this menu, at her residence in
the Bois de Boulogne near Paris.
(Above photo by Wolfgang Kuhn, Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo;
Photo at top of page taken in 1937: Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo)
Menu dated 21st November 1974
Dinner hosted by Her Grace the Duchess of Windsor at her residence in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris.
There was a “grumble book”. At least that’s what her staff called it. Here the Duchess of Windsor, a renowned fastidious hostess, jotted down her thoughts on the evening’s menu. After each meal, staff would open the golden encased notepad to learn if the Duchess thought a wine was not paired properly; a sauce too spicy; a pastry too crumbly or, on a happier note, if a dish was devoured with relish by a particularly appreciative guest.
“I keep a record of all my dinners – the guest lists, the menu itself, the seating arrangements, the table decor, which china and which silver were used”, explained the Duchess who also revealed in an unpublished manuscript, "I remember no time when I was not interested in food."
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor usually entertained at their Paris residence in the Bois de Boulogne; sometimes referred to as the Villa Windsor.
“Our Paris house is… a formal place”, recounted her abdicating husband, the Duke of Windsor, “but the entertaining we do there… is completely informal.”
Informal it may have been, at least by royal comparisons. But the Duchess of Windsor had gained a world-wide reputation as an icon of fashion and the ultimate hostess with exacting standards.
“Personally, I consider ten the ideal number for dinner”, penned the former Mrs Wallis Simpson in a 1949 edition of Vogue.
Ten, she said, ensured a “contrasting company, yet one that can be seated around a table in sufficiently close proximity for general conversation."
But there was a downside to ten for dinner. “More than eight persons means no soufflé”, bemoaned the Duchess, “always a melancholy omission”.
The dinner menu on this website is from the Paris residence of the 78 year-old Duchess in her widowhood. As her husband, the former King Edward VIII, had died 18 months earlier, the menu is embossed with the Duchess’s personal monogram that intertwines the letters “W” for Wallis and Windsor.
She was very particular about her menus and left nothing to chance, and left nothing to her French chef either, who had to brush-up on his culinary debating skills.
“Whenever I have a fair-sized dinner, I summon the chef three or four days in advance, and discuss my problem with him. He will usually produce two or three experimental menus, and I always have at least one of my own, for purposes of argument. The final menu will represent a combination of the chef’s ideas and mine”, she wrote.
The poor chef also had to contend with the Ducal couple’s dislike of onion and garlic,“poison to the duke and me".
The menu on this night in 1974 appears homely with its servings of roast chicken and a dessert of caramel ice-cream following an entrée of crab in curry sauce. By now, the Duchess's health was in decline; and in another two years she would become a virtual recluse and unable to freely move.
The monogram of the Duchess of Windsor atop the menu card.