Brown Windsor soup

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Brown Windsor soup
Place of originGreat Britain
Main ingredientsLamb or beef steak, parsnips, carrots, leeks, bouquet garni, Madeira wine

Brown Windsor soup is a British meat soup that is said by conventional wisdom to have been popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras,[1][2][3] although well-documented evidence for the soup does not exist until the 1920s and '30s. In any case, "Brown Windsor soup became shorthand for awful food," and was used as a prop by comics in the post-war years.[2]

Origins and history[edit]

It is unclear whether this often-written-about soup is of Victorian origin. The food writer Alan Davidson in The Oxford Companion to Food (2006) refers to an elaborate late Victorian recipe in Garrett's Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery from 1890,[4][5] although Davidson does not make clear if Garrett's recipe is for a "Brown" Windsor Soup. The earliest known cases of "Brown Windsor soup" are found in restaurant menus published as advertisements in newspapers during the 1920s and 1930s. Examples include Cadena Cafes (Portsmouth) which advertised "Soup - Tomato or Brown Windsor" on its menu dated 24 February 1926.[6] Bobby's of Queens Road (Bristol) advertised "Potage Brown Windsor" (under the "soup" heading) on its menu dated 13 February 1931.[7] The Scottish department store Isaac Benzie advertised "Brown Windsor Soup" in a menu published 14 December 1933.[8]

Despite the soup being documented in restaurant menus during the interwar years, some more recent web sources incorrectly claim there are no references to "Brown Windsor soup" prior to a joke mention, or invention, in the 1953 Ealing Studios film comedy The Captain's Paradise.[9][10] Another associates it with Calves' Feet Soup à la Windsor, created for the "post-natal Queen Victoria" by Charles Elmé Francatelli, her chef.[11][A] Etymologist Michael Quinion incorrectly reports the earliest known reference is from 1943, in The Fancy, by Monica Dickens.[2]

As to the name, a few early White Windsor soup recipes included the use of Windsor fava beans (broad beans), perhaps the origin of the name.[2] Quinion adds that fictional barrister Rumpole of the Bailey mentioned eating it on the Great Western Railway in a book of short stories dated 1978 — although Quinion questions whether this is an endorsement of the soup, "the extract confirms that the soup was at one time a staple of the restaurant menus of British Railways."[12] Dr Malcolm Timperley, a researcher in the National Railway Museum's library and archives, reports that their team has specifically researched the existence of brown Windsor soup in British dining cars. After checking scores of menus dating back to the nineteenth century they failed to find any mention of it.[13]

Despite its disputed origins, there are many recipes, and they often reassert or embellish the supposed myth.[3][14][15]

In popular culture[edit]

British magazine The Poke advertised a satirical can of Brown Windsor soup as part of a "Jubilee Collection," available for about 40, complete with silver spoon and reportedly made "directly from the sewage outflow of Windsor Castle."[16] Brown Windsor soup is identified in the film "Carry On Regardless" (1961) by Kenneth Connor as the dish he is splashed with having knocked over a waiter's tray on a train and in Carry On Abroad (1972) by Kenneth Williams in a scene in a restaurant, where the soup is mistakenly referred to as 'Brown Bristols' by the Spanish hotel manager, played by Peter Butterworth . In an episode, titled The Macreekie Rising of '74, of The Goon Show, Brown Windsor soup is used as a weapon and mocked as "deficient in calories" by the impressively stout Neddy Seagoon. In Hancock's Half Hour, episode "Air Crew Only", the in-flight meal starts with "Brown Windsor soup just burnt enough to leave that attractive brown ring sticking round the edge of the plate",[17] a line re-used from the radio episode "The End of the Series". In Agatha Christie's Poirot, episode "Hercule Poirot's Christmas", Poirot laments to a waiter that the Brown Windsor soup he has been served "doesn't look very... delicieux".[18] In "Basil the Rat," the last episode of Fawlty Towers, the upper-class couple who have the rat under their table order a Windsor soup as their starter.[19]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Calves' Feet Soup à la Windsor "A creamed soup of boiled calves’ feet, celery and other vegetables, cream, white wine, and raw yolks for final thickening." Whitehead, Jessup (1903). The steward's handbook and guide to party catering. Chicago, Illinois: Jessup Whitehead & Co. p. 263. Retrieved 25 March 2014. at Internet Archive.


  1. ^ Hibbert, Christopher. Queen Victoria: A Personal History. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 469. ISBN 0-306-81085-9.
  2. ^ a b c d Quinion, Michael (15 March 2014). "Brown Windsor Soup". World Wide Words Newsletter. World Wide Words. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b French Tart (21 September 2009). "Queen Victoria's Brown Windsor Soup (recipe)". Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  4. ^ Garrett, Theodore Francis (ed.) (1890). Encyclopedia of Practical Cookery. London: L. Upcott Gill.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Davidson, Alan (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 735. ISBN 0-19-280681-5.
  6. ^ The Portsmouth Evening News, 24 February 1926. Page 3, advertisement for Cadena Cafes left column. Last accessed May 2015 via British Newspaper Archive.
  7. ^ Western Daily Press, Bristol, 13 February 1931. Page 9, advertisement for Bobby's of Queens Road left column. Last accessed February 2015 via British Newspaper Archive.
  8. ^ Aberdeen Press and Journal, 14 December 1933, page 12, advertisement second column top. Last accessed February 2015 via British Newspaper Archive.
  9. ^ Lovefood Team (27 February 2013). "The curious tale of Brown Windsor soup". Love Food. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  10. ^ Staff writer (20 February 2013). "Brown Windsor Information". The Foods of England. The Foods of England. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  11. ^ The Old Foodie. "Windsor Soup". Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  12. ^ Quinion, Michael (22 March 2014). "Brown Windsor soup". World Wide Words Newsletter. World Wide Words. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  13. ^ Timperley, Malcolm (July 2016). "Lines of Enquiry". Backtrack. 30 (7): 387.
  14. ^ "Brown Windsor Soup (recipe)". Retrieved 23 March 2014. with Madeira wine
  15. ^ Lagasse, Emeril (2001). "Brown Windsor Soup". Live. Retrieved 22 March 2014. Recipe from Lagasse, Emeril; Tirsch, Jessie (1993). New New Orleans Cooking. New York: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0688112846. ISBN 9780688112844
  16. ^ "Brown Windsor Soup Jubilee Collection". The Poke Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Hancock's Half Hour Alpine Holiday, Air Crew Only" – via YouTube.[dead link]
  18. ^ Agatha Christies Poirot (1989) Episode Scripts
  19. ^ "The Curious Tale of Brown Windsor Soup". 15 November 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2017.

External links[edit]