During World War II, the British royal family stashed away scores of gemstones from the Crown Jewels, fearing the Nazis would steal them. Where exactly they put them, though, remained a mystery for decades. Rumors swirled for years that King George VI hid the jewels, which are usually housed at the Tower of London, in a Welsh cave. Others whispered that the gems were tucked away at a prison in Devon, beneath a secret tunnel.
In January, a BBC documentary revealed that the King had buried the Crown Jewels in a hole, underneath an secret exit known as a sally port, at Windsor Castle. He didn’t just put them in the ground, though: He stored them in a Bath Oliver cookie tin. Even the Queen of England did not know that her father had buried them there until Alastair Bruce, a presenter for the BBC, told her about the discovery. (The detail had been revealed in letters written by royal librarian Sir Owen Morshead to George VI’s mother, Queen Mary.) For all Queen Elizabeth knew, her father’s cookie tin held, well, cookies.
Finding much more than cookies in cookie tins—particularly the bright blue ones made by Royal Dansk—seems to be a common, cross-cultural phenomenon. From India to Canada, people have stories about finding something else in there entirely: Sewing supplies, ribbons, homemade cookies, or even their own family jewels (such as poker winnings).
My mother kept various Royal Dansk containers. One held wine corks that she’d saved up for an art project (which has yet to be completed). I’m Latin American and grew up Catholic, so I perhaps shouldn’t have been too shocked to find that another tin held small mementos and photos from my First Communion. As a child, I regularly opened tins, which I hoped would hold the crystalline, buttery cookies the label promised. They never did.
Something about Royal Dansk cookie tins has made them ubiquitous in our homes. At Gastro Obscura, we’re curious about this phenomenon, so we’re asking for your help. Were you one of those kids who hoped to find butter cookies in your family’s tins, and instead found something unusual inside? Do you now store things in Royal Dansk containers? If so, what?
Tell us about it using this form, and we’ll share our favorite responses in an article this April. Together, we can figure out why these cookie tins so often house baubles instead of biscuits.
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