TITLE: Fish & Shellfish
NUMBER: Series 1, Episode 1
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 9, 1996
For the field trip, they collect mussels at Hemmick Beach (with Jennifer carrying them in her helmet) and take a ride on a crab boat. [In Spilling the Beans, Clarissa says series creator Patricia Llewellyn got seasick on the boat ride.]
DISHES: Jennifer makes a sort of shepherd’s pie using fresh and smoked fish, shrimp and béchamel mixed with anchovy paste (“it brings the flavor out a treat”) on a bed of spinach and topped with mashed potatoes. It’s odd, but looks kind of good, and she says it’s a dish everyone [in Britain?] apparently loves. [In Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies, she recommends serving it on Good Friday or Christmas Eve.] She says the anchovy paste “brings the flavor out a treat,” and goes on to declare her personal mission statement:
You’ll see we’re rather fond of anchovy. It’s a very good thing, because the taste of anchovy sort of disappears; it just produces a fine flavor. — Jennifer
She also does a dish of scallops over thinly sliced leeks with a cream sauce.
Clarissa does a “gigot” of monkfish, cooked with anchovies and rosemary and served with a hot vinaigrette, and corn fritters with crabmeat and coriander [cilantro]. (The fritter dish is identified in Cooking as Indonesian in origin.)
Coley [which Wikipedia says is called pollock in the U.S., though a fisherman on this episode seems to differentiate the two] is a “wonderful, flaky fish,” according to Jennifer, despite the popular view that it is “only for cats.” [Update: In Cooking, Clarissa says coley is “similar to pollock,” which isn’t terribly helpful.] Jennifer says the fish looks like “a bloody great mermaid.”
Clarissa says coley are “very popular in Shetland,” where they are smoked and hung from the rafters of buildings; “the phosphorescence is so bright you can read by them,” she claims. (“A wonderful thing to have in case of a power cut,” Jennifer says.) (It’s a beautiful image, but I wasn’t able to verify they actually glow. – WK)
Boats that catch monkfish are known as “monk-netters,” according to a local fisherman.
Gigot is the French for a leg of lamb; the term is also used in Scotland, where it’s pronounced “jigget.” Clarissa calls her monkfish dish by that name because the fishtail resembles a lamb’s leg.
“Larding” means to pierce small holes in meat so that something may be inserted into it. She lards her fish with a large “needle.”(“A wonderful weapon!” says Jennifer, and Clarissa replies, “I know, stick it in the burglar.”) The inclusion of rosemary sets off a discussion about whether the monkfish recipe is more Welsh or Italian, and whether the two cultures might have gotten it from one another. Rosemary is “very good with pike,” according to Clarissa.
Clarissa: “Everybody thinks that there are large chunks of the crab that are poisonous and that you can’t eat, which is a complete fallacy.” The only inedible parts are the “dead men’s fingers,” which “you wouldn’t want to eat anyway – these horrible bits that look like used latex or . . . I don’t know quite what.”
Scallops are “better raw than overcooked” (Jennifer).
ON HEALTHY LIVING: The “ounce of butter” Jennifer puts into the pan when beginning her scallop dish is a pretty hefty one.
None of this nonsense about yogurt instead of cream. Yogurt is not instead of cream. Yogurt is very good for your breakfast, or if you have a poor tummy . . . or if you’re a vegetarian or something. — Jennifer
REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST: Clarissa recalls meeting a man who “for ten Singapore dollars” would display the scars from a sharkbite wound on his head to tourists. She also remembers cleaning cooked crabs as a small child. [In Cooking, she claims that crab was the first food she ever cooked, at age nine: “I was forced to seek out something to eat as I was staying with my cousin at the time, who was the most appalling cook and always managed to burn everything she prepared. I caught crabs with coathangers from under the rocks, then built a brushwood fire and boiled them in sea-water in a tin.”]
STRONG OPINIONS: The monkfish is described as a “devilfish” and a “monster” (though we are not given a very good look at it ourselves). (Here’s what we get:)
Here’s a much better look at one:
Jennifer says sharks are “very, very evil fish.”
Very good for the busy businessman to come home and make a serious meal. It would calm them down no end. In fact, I do know some who do; they come home and they settle down and cook a proper dinner, and they find it relaxing, you know, after those ghastly things they do in the city, with stocks, and shares, and destroying each other’s reputations. — Jennifer
At the beach, the ladies spot a surfer in the cold water, and Jennifer cries, “They must be crazy!” They note that the mussels they gather are smaller than those served in many restaurants:
Clarissa: Everybody’s used to those sort of big horrid ones.
Jennifer: Yeah, there are terrible ones that are farmed, which are really disgusting. Great white flesh . . .
Clarissa: Oh, you mean the green-lipped ones, or whatever they’re called?
Jennifer attributes the requirement to wear life jackets to “nanny government.”
The incidental music played during the fishing boat ride is the adagio from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus.
[UPDATE: Reader Johnnie writes that the same music was used for BBC’s nautical-themed drama The Onedin Line in the 1970s. The things one misses, not being British. Thanks, Johnnie! – WK]
[Here’s an episode from the show:]
Clarissa wears a yellow blouse with a wallpaper-type pattern on it. [My girlfriend said: “It’s as if they just went and bought up a bunch of weird fabric at a store and then made a blouse out of it. That’s probably what they did do.”]
The life vests are said to make the ladies feel like “a walking duvet” (Clarissa) and “a Dalek” (Jennifer).
When relaxing during the epilogue, Jennifer wears a pair of embroidered slippers she calls “the Papals”:
And of course it must be mentioned that in this and every subsequent episode Clarissa wears a signet ring on the little finger of her left hand, like a proper wannabe-aristocrat (albeit a male one).
ON DRINKS AND DRINKING: Jennifer: “I like having vermouth around, because I’m not tempted to drink it.”
SUGGESTIONS OF SEX: “Lace up me corsets, Trevor,” Jennifer instructs a fisherman helping her on with her life jacket.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS: “I like rich food.” – Jennifer
“I’m the kitchen fairy!” – Jennifer
Clarissa takes a towel from Jennifer:
Jennifer: That’s not for you to wipe your hands on.
Clarissa: Is it not? What is it for?
Jennifer: That’s my oven cloth.
Clarissa: Well, I’m sorry, I’ve made a right old mess of it now.
Jennifer: Dirty, dirty.
TRADEMARKS: Anchovies in both the fish pie and the monkfish. Clarissa’s larding needle is the first vintage cooking tool she uses. Jennifer complains about the cold on the beach. Clarissa says a fisherman “looks proper.”