“I like rich food” – Fish & Shellfish

TITLE: Fish & Shellfish

NUMBER: Series 1, Episode 1

ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 9, 1996

SETTINGS: Mevagissey, Cornwall. Jennifer and Clarissa cook at the Sharksfin Quayside Pub and Restaurant.

In recent years, the Sharksfin has added a gaudy new sign.

In recent years, the Sharksfin has added a gaudy new sign.

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.]

Hemmick Beach.

Hemmick Beach.

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 Ladiesshe 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

Anchovies

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.)

FOOD TIPS AND LORE: John Dory is known as “St. Peter’s fish”; the dark spots on its sides are “the thumbprints of St. Peter.” [St. Peter is the patron saint of fishermen.]

“The thumbprints of St. Peter.”

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.”

Coley.

Coley.

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)

Rafters

“The phosphorescence is so bright you can read by them.”

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.

Gigot.

Gigot.

Gigot.

Gigot.

“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.

Rosemary apparently has multiple applications.

Rosemary apparently has multiple applications.

One must be careful not to eat mussels that have chipped shells, “otherwise it’s cholera all round,” Jennifer says. [Cholera-causing bacteria in mussels have been the subject of some study.]

Cholera

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.”

Dead man's fingers

“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.

“An ounce of butter.”

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

“Yogurt is not instead of cream.”

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:)

Monkfish

“It really is a monster, isn’t it?”

Here’s a much better look at one:

Monkfish (1)

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

“Very good for the busy businessman to come home and make a serious meal.”

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?

“Really disgusting.”

Jennifer attributes the requirement to wear life jackets to “nanny government.”

nanny-state

SONGS AND MUSIC: Jennifer sings “Yea Ho, Little Fish” – “the song Spencer Tracy sang in Captains Courageous.

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:]

LITERARY/CULTURAL REFERENCES: Jennifer adapts Robert Herrick (“Gather us mussels while we may”) and cries out “To the lighthouse!” at one point.

Robert_Herrick_(poet)

To the Lighthouse

The ladies reference Sir Henry Newbolt’s poem “Drake’s Drum” while on the boat.

Captain Art Tha Sleepin There BelowSTYLE WATCH: Jennifer’s red rain boots:

Red boots

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.”]

[In fact, in Spilling the Beans, Clarissa writes that every outfit she wore on the show came from an Edinburgh shop called “Big Ideas for Ladies”! You can check out their wares here, if you like.]

Big Ideas for LadiesThe life vests are said to make the ladies feel like “a walking duvet” (Clarissa) and “a Dalek” (Jennifer).

I feel like a Dalek.

“I feel like a Dalek – dum, dum, dum.”

Wet TFL

When relaxing during the epilogue, Jennifer wears a pair of embroidered slippers she calls “the Papals”:

“The Papals.”

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.

Clarissa makes her move.

Clarissa makes her move.

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.”

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4 thoughts on ““I like rich food” – Fish & Shellfish

  1. I LOVE this blog. Every Sunday I get comfortable on the couch and enjoy a couple of episodes of The Two Fat Ladies. It’s so sad that they are both gone but the laughter lives on.

    Liked by 1 person

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