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.