Eat like a Nobel Laureate
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As a child, most of us had this ridiculous pipedream of winning a Nobel. It didn't matter if we couldn't write a sentence or understand a basic physics equation, the idea of winning a Nobel is a firmament that was firmly lodged in our mind along with becoming a fighter pilot. And everyone has their own version of how they will accept it (mine was to refuse it a la Sartre).

Everything about the process is enthralling, none more so than the banquet. What do they eat at Nobel banquets?

Well as it turns out, it’s quite a sumptuous buffet, which might give some high-end Indian weddings a run for their money. The event is held every year on December 10 (the last two had been cancelled due to Covid-19) and keeps changing with the times. 

It's a fancy affair whose shopping list included at one time: 2,692 pigeon breasts, 475 lobster tails, 100 kilos of potatoes, 70 litres of sweet and sour raspberry vinegar sauce, 67 kilos of Jerusalem artichokes, 53 kilos of Philadelphia cheese and 45 kilos of lightly smoked salmon among other things.

Over the years the menu has changed as well. In case you’re interested, here’s a complete set of menus from every year’s banquet.

As the Nobel website states: “The menu for the first Nobel Banquet was a five-course meal that cost 15 Swedish kronor (approximately 200 US dollars today). For this sum, the guests were served hors d’oeuvres followed by poached fillet of brill with white wine sauce. Brill is a flatfish found in Europe and is usually served for fine dining. This was followed by fillet of beef imperial, and breast of hazel grouse with Madeira sauce. Dessert consisted of Nobel ice cream parfait and fruit tartlette. Chicken consommé with veal quenelles, fillet of sole with lobster sauce, salted saddle of lamb with Madeira sauce, cold fried hazel grouse with goose liver, green asparagus with virgin vinaigrette and ice cream à la Nabob were served for the banquet in 1910.”

During WWI and WWII, banquets were cancelled and the money was donated to the Red Cross. Post WWI, things got scaled down to four dishes when turtle soup was still a favourite. After the WWII sandwiches made an appearance for the first time, but the menu stuck to serving fish for starters and fowl for the main course. And also 1976 saw the famous ice cream parade make an appearance, which is now part of the tradition.

While most of us have gotten over our childhood delusions of winning one, you can still eat like a Laureate thanks to Stadshuskällaren (City Hall Cellars),  a Swedish restaurant that serves every single menu from 1922 onwards. Diners can eat the same meals that were eaten by the Laureates. 

Of course, the times change people’s food habits. For example, turtle soup which was very popular back in the day is a slow mover now, while chicken – which was rare earlier – just doesn’t have the same lustre as an entrée. 

While the cost varies depending upon the year you choose, the 2018 version now goes for $200 and if you ever find yourself in Stockholm, it might just be fun to savour the same things eaten by legendary figures over the years.

PS:  The only two individuals to win both the Nobel and Oscar are George Bernard Shaw and Bob Dylan. Both won Nobels in Literature while Bob Dylan won his Oscar for Best Original Song (Things have Changed in the movie Wonder Boys), George Bernard Shaw won Best Screenplay (along with three others) for Pygmalion a movie which according to critics elevated films from illiteracy to literacy.

PPS: Incidentally, Dylan is perhaps the only person to win a Nobel Prize in Literature after rhyming mouse with house. As the lyrics go in his protest song against racism about Rubin “Hurricane" carter: “But then they took him to the jailhouse, where they try to turn a man into a mouse.”