What’s wrong with all the mentions of organic food in “Spencer”?
Before the sort of biopic about Princess Diana spencer released in late 2021, there were very few questions left to ask about the beloved Princess of Wales. Despite the insistence of podcasts, books, musicals and documentaries – many of which have been released in the past five years – that no wait, there’s more to learn about one of pop culture’s most publicly exposed womenPretty much everything we’ll ever know about the People’s Princess is already there, even and especially the fact that she liked to wear bike shorts and sweatshirts.
Kristen Stewart films tend to inspire plot, however, due to the fact that Kristen Stewart is in them, and although spencer was less of a historical artifact than a psychological phantasmagoria, there seemed to be a new addition to Diana’s canon that appealed to many American audiences – largely watching spencer blindly criticizing Kristen Stewart’s British accent – off guard.
Why were there so many repeated mentions of organic foods?
Another question you might ask yourself is “Why does someone write about spencer now, so many months after the release of the film? And the answer is that the Oscars are this Sunday and Kristen Stewart is nominated for Best Actress. Now back to organic vegetables.
Much of the film takes place in and around the kitchen of Queen Sandrigham’s home, where the royal family spends the 1991 Christmas holidays. The focus is deliberately placed on Diana’s eating disorder and the coldness with which the royal family treats her (about this and everything else). She finds friendship in her royal chest of drawers and the chef of the kitchen, Darren McGrady, who throughout the film barks wartime platitudes at his kitchen staff and lists all the delicious things the royal family will eat for dinner.
“Organic carrots. Please be careful of the box we take the carrots from because he will check, McGrady tells staff, the “he” here being Prince Charles. “Parsnips – again, organic. Finally, a selection of sweet and savory organic biscuits. Organic cookies from..?”
“Highgrove, Chief,” the staff respond.
To an ordinary consumer, especially in America, the word “organic” feels like it has only become a popular part of the food lexicon in the last ten or fifteen years. The facts confirm this: according to an article published by the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford, between 2001 and 2011, the world’s agricultural land dedicated to organic farming increased 2.3 times. Although he cannot be held entirely responsible for this global development, Prince Charles was an early adopter of organic farming. You bet your ass he was going to check out those carrots.
In 1985, a full six years before the Christmas dinner where Stewart’s Diana eats a bowl full of pearls (in the film alone, we hope), Charles converted his farmhouse Duchy House on his Highgrove estate to all methods of organically grown, sparking controversy and disdain from the British public, press and farmers who thought he was a backslidden Luddite. (His statement that he was talking to his plants was torn apart by the tabloids.) More than two decades later, when organic farming and foods became more available and a more popular eco-friendly choice, Charles had time to say “I told you so” to all his early skeptics:
“Hundreds of varieties have been lost”, Reuters reported in 2007 about an interview broadcast on the BBC. “…wonderful things that our ancestors had great difficulty developing, which in many cases are resistant to all sorts of common diseases.
“That’s why I’ve spoken for all these years – in a chorus of ridicule – about the importance of protecting and preserving rare native breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens.
“And of course now, surprise surprise, they are starting to come back. But the madness of what we have done to this world – madness.
It’s unclear exactly why it was so important to give Charles’ preoccupation with organic food a boost in a film in which he wasn’t the focus (perhaps to demonstrate another dietary pressure to which Diana was struggling). But it does reveal something else Princess Diana was dealing with during their marriage: someone who was extremely right about something — and then liked to act judgmental about it. It’s something universally relatable, whether you’re a princess or a pauper.