Roast swan with green mashed potatoes


If, like Gert, you love big personalities with a sizeable helping of the fraud or impostor, you’ll enjoy this article by Edward White in The Paris Review about Fanny Cradock, the face and voice of cooking on British television from the mid-’50s to the mid-’70s [who was] once described by one national newspaper as “a preposterous character, the foodie you loved to loathe.” She actually wasn’t much of a cook – mincemeat omelette, anyone? – but she was an excellent self-promoter, a brand before the time when celebrities were brands.

Fanny’s trademark, apart from her lavish makeup and peculiar dress sense, was her supercilousness and rudeness to ordinary mortals. She went too far, though, when appearing as a judge on the cooking program The Big Time, which showcased amateur cooks like Gwen Troake:  

As Troake ran through what she was planning to serve at the banquet—a seafood cocktail, followed by duck, and rounded off with a rum and coffee cream pudding—Cradock rolled her eyes, gulped, and grimaced in a pantomime of disgust and disbelief at the overbearing richness of the menu, at one point blowing her cheeks out as though she were about to be physically sick. When Troake revealed that the duck would be served with a blackberry jam, Cradock could stomach no more and unleashed what she thought was the ultimate insult. “All these jams,” she said, “they are so English…

When Cradock made her infamous appearance, assailing the Englishness of Troake’s menu, the public apparently decided that it had had enough of her imperiousness… Viewers complained, and the British newspapers—primed as ever with confected moralism—declared themselves outraged. “Not since 1940,” wrote the Daily Telegraph, the paper that had first allowed Cradock to write about food, “can the people of England have risen in such unified wrath.” Her goose was cooked. It was time for Fanny Cradock to get out of the kitchen.

24 thoughts on “Roast swan with green mashed potatoes

        1. There definitely was in influence early on – big lumps of roast meat, lots of white bread, pseudo-spaghetti ….. but thank god the influence of the region has taken over and it’s much lighter, spicier and fresher. As you know, Teri!

              1. I’m following the news to see when (if?) it goes back up! We wouldn’t be able to come for some months yet. Of course, there’s still the issue of whether people from the USA will be allowed in (but Alaska has very low rates of infections, so maybe they’ll make an exception),

      1. As in Vegemite being totally inferior to Marmite you mean? (Or vice versa if you live on the other side of the world?)

        The big and deciding issue could reside in the statistics of baked bean and custard consumption. (Not served together)

  1. I could never understand her, ahem, allure, nor could I understand her penchant for drawing in eyebrows a handsbreadth above where her real ones should have been. John Lennon’s song about Polythene Pam (“so good-looking she looked like a man”) always comes to mind when I think of her. And her acid tongue, clearly she believed fine words butter no parsnips… And what about her hubby Johnny? I guess he must’ve been in it for the money, for he had no discernible qualities whatsoever.

    Sorry, I seem to have swallowed too much vitriol.

  2. I’m off to have a read of this as I can just about recall Fanny Craddock from the early years of my childhood…

    Are you a fan of Keith Floyd by any chance? Floyd on France is back on the BBC iPlayer over here, so I may have to indulge!

  3. Can’t imagine doing anything constructive with sleeves like that. Did she have a funny voice like Julia Child? I think Julia could actually cook.

    1. She was as (in)famous for her deep (can I say ‘mannish’?) voice as for her looks, what I would otherwise have expected from a 60-a-day smoker. A funny voice? Well, if I can say it was easy for impressionists to include in their repertoire… 😁

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