NUMBER: Series 1, Episode 2
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 16, 1996
SETTINGS: Westonbirt, a Gloucestershire girls’ school housed in a (rather fantastic) country house. [In Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies, written during production, Clarissa says (or implies, anyway) that Westonbirt was the alma mater of producer Patricia Llewellyn.]
The ladies are impressed with the building (“Plenty of room for the smell of boiled cabbage to rise,” says Clarissa) and in particular with its industrial-sized kitchen, with “railway sleepers on the ceiling” and Brobdingnagian cookware.
In the episode’s opening moments, the motorcycle’s path is blocked by a flock of Blackface sheep and their jolly (possibly drunken) shepherd.
Before beginning, they head to Highgrove, the country estate of Prince Charles, where they get a tour of his organic beef ranch and ask if they might visit the Prince. “I’m cleared, I’ve already cooked for him,” Jennifer says. “Cleared for what?” asks the mustached ranch overseer. “Well . . . that I’m not a poisoner.”
They don’t see the Prince, but the Royal Mustache does take Jennifer’s bike for a spin, despite its seat being damp (“You’ll have a wet botty,” she warns him – at least, that’s what I think she says).
The field trip segment takes them to Jesse Smith & Co, a butcher shop [in Tetbury], where they drool over the wares. “It’s a dream, real fat!” marvels Jennifer, and Clarissa says, “I want to come and live here.”
DISHES: Jennifer cooks a meatloaf, which she describes as “not a nasty old dry thing you used to have at school.” (“We used to call it ‘martyrs’ relics,’” says Clarissa.) It contains six kinds of meat, and she says when making it for children she decorates it to resemble a hedgehog. (Though she does not actually do so on this occasion, despite the fact that she is making it for children. Anyway, this is one dish that I have actually made myself, and it’s delicious, though I’m not sure I like the contribution the juniper berries make to it. – WK)
In the second segment, she cooks shoulder of lamb with beans, which she describes as “poor man’s cassoulet.” [This dish is identified as “A.N.’s Slow Shoulder of Lamb,” and in Cooking she attributes it to the writer A.N. Wilson.]
Clarissa cooks “Beef à la Will Moreland” [in Cooking described as “a friend who is almost as talented a cook as he is a violinist”]: “roast fillet of beef in a pan-Asian fashion.” It’s cooked with garlic, ginger, spring onions (“A trinity of delight!” Jennifer says), chilies, coriander [cilantro] and coconut milk. It’s “the sort of thing that’s coming out of Australia at the moment.” She also does chicken breasts with an “aillade” (an emulsion of walnuts, garlic and olive oil) [attributed in Cooking to Jeanne and Paul Strang]. (I’ve also made this one, and it has become a favorite of mine. – WK)
FOOD TIPS AND LORE: When sautéing mushrooms for her meatloaf, Jennifer adds “a damn good scrape of nutmeg,” which “makes all the difference to mushrooms.” Juniper berries are good with game and mixtures of meats, but they must be crushed or “you’ll just find nasty little black bullets, and you’ll wonder what in the world you’ve met.”
Clarissa “seals” her beef fillet by searing it. She also warns that chicken should not be marinated in yogurt for more than an hour, “otherwise it will go woolly and blotting-papery.”
The ladies discuss walnuts:
Clarissa: We don’t use walnuts enough in this country.
Jennifer: You know why – they’re so darn difficult to pick.
Clarissa: No . . . you just shake the tree. “A dog, a woman and a walnut tree,/The more you beat them, the better they be.”
ON HEALTHY LIVING: Learning they will be cooking for the lacrosse team brings about the following exchange:
Jennifer: Oh God, you know what? Something’s just struck me.This day and age, they’ll probably be vegetarians.
Clarissa: Not the lacrosse team!
However, upon seeing the team, Jennifer seems reassured, and comments, “They all look very healthy. I shouldn’t think they’re vegetarians.”
In the epilogue, Jennifer enjoys a cigarette outside.
Clarissa: You could get expelled for that, you know.
Jennifer: I don’t care. Haven’t smoked all day – not allowed to in there. They can’t expel me, anyway – I’m much too old, and I’m leaving.
REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST: Jennifer recalls cooking for the Prince of Wales: “I gave him raw fish and called him ‘Your Majesty’ by mistake.”
Clarissa experiences a sort of reverie while watching the lacrosse players: “I used to be jolly good at this once, Jennifer – awfully good, I was.” Jennifer has to snap her fingers in her face to get her attention again.
The use of walnuts in one of Clarissa’s recipes inspires this discussion:
Jennifer: We had walnuts, in Sicily.
Clarissa: Did you?
Jennifer: Yes, always had walnut sauces.
Clarissa: What sort? Were they black walnuts?
Jennifer: Yeah, pretty black.
Clarissa: No, no, no, it’s a type of species.
Jennifer: Oh, I don’t know, I’m no gardener.
Clarissa: There are only two types of species of walnut. There’s the black walnut, and the ordinary common or garden walnut. [Known as the English walnut in the U.S. – WK]
Jennifer [poshly]: Well, I expect ours was black, then.
During the epilogue:
Clarissa: I used to smoke a pipe in the nuns’ cemetery.
Jennifer: I smoked Abdullas, which was fatal!
Clarissa: Are those those flat ones?
Jennifer: Yeah, Turkish, so of course it could be smelt all over the place.
[In Cooking, Jennifer also recalls making her meatloaf “at a curious school in Padworth.”]
STRONG OPINIONS: Clarissa criticizes the spout insert in her soy sauce bottle as “pathetic” and removes it. She also says the young “exhaust one so.”
Jennifer: I never know why people strain sauces.
Clarissa: I supposed it’s refained.
During the lacrosse game, she also quotes Noël Coward (“The playing fields of Eton have made us frightfully brave”) and compares the goalkeeper to the Man in the Iron Mask.
STYLE WATCH: Jennifer’s red driving gloves. The man who assists them in the butcher shop wears a straw boater.
XENOPHOBIA ALERT: Clarissa describes lacrosse as a “red Indian war game.” (“I’ve never quite known why they think this is a suitable way of training young ladies for the future.”)
SUGGESTIONS OF SEX: Clarissa admits a “kitchenalia fetish” and crushes her walnuts with a mortar and pestle because she’s “something of a masochist.” (“It’s the only exercise I take, really.”)
In the butcher shop, Jennifer says, “There are some lovely faggots in the window – I haven’t seen a real faggot in years.” [In the U.K., a “faggot” is apparently a prepared dish made from organ meats; it was immortalized in this scene from Poirot.]
There is also this conversation:
Jennifer: Lovely sweetbreads – goodness, I search for sweetbreads, I love them!
Clarissa: Everybody always thinks they’re testicles, don’t they.
Jennifer: Yes, quite mad. I can’t imagine why they do – they are from two different glands, one from the throat and one from under the heart. I did them once – cook proper testicles, in Benghazi, of all places.
Clarissa: In Benghazi? Whose testicles were they?
Finally, the ladies’ conversation about smoking in the epilogue concludes thusly:
Jennifer: You’re a good girl, you’ve given it up.
Clarissa: Yes, given it up. Very few vices left.
Jennifer: Very few vices left, and those are hidden.
Clarissa: Well . . . it depends, really, if they take their trousers off or not.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS: “Now it’s fun time!” – Jennifer, about to mold her meatloaf.
PHONY BUSINESS: Clarissa pretends not to know where they are while map-reading in the opening moments. The setup is that the school cook has the flu and the ladies have been called in to replace her at the last moment.
In the episode’s final moments, Jennifer spins the bike wildly around, and dubbed dialogue suggests this was because Clarissa had forgotten her citrus squeezer.
MISTAKES: Clarissa’s chicken breasts are fairly patchily browned.
TRADEMARKS: Jennifer mentions the cold while at the beef farm. Clarissa uses an antique citrus squeezer. Jennifer mixes and molds her meatloaf with bare hands, saying, “It probably does your hands a lot of good – which of course are spotless before you start.” Jennifer gives specific instructions for cooking her lamb shoulder in an AGA.