NUMBER: Series 1, Episode 4
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 30, 1996
[UPDATE: A reader sent in some “Street View” photos of the locations from this episode as they appear today. Fantastic! – WK]
DISHES: Jennifer bakes a gallete des rois, a pastry made with almonds and kirsch that is traditionally served at Epiphany. She also does a Polish chocolate coffee cake with walnuts (“for the grownups”). (She says to eat this with “lovely iced coffee while you’re reclining by a swimming pool.”)
Clarissa does a gingerbread cake from Yorkshire [an odd choice for summer, but I have made it for Christmas and it’s excellent – WK] and a prune and apple cake from Denmark. [Cooking says the recipe comes from Australian cook Gretta Anna Teplitzky.]
FOOD TIPS AND LORE: Clarissa says baking requires more precision and attention to detail than other cookery does. She also notes that cake batter is best mixed with a metal spoon. [On my favorite episode of The French Chef, Julia Child says that ingredients for a dessert are best mixed with a purple spoon, but that’s another story.] When the gallete des rois is served for Epiphany, a ring, bean, or figure of the infant Jesus is included in the batter; whoever finds it in his or her piece is declared king of the feast, according to Jennifer.
Jennifer uses instant coffee in her cake icing, saying, “Strangely enough, it seems to resume a taste of coffee, which it never does if you drink it.” (“Tastes more like Oxo,” Clarissa comments.)
ON HEALTHY LIVING: Clarissa on her prune cake: “Just in case you think it sounds healthy, don’t be put off by that. It’s very good.” Jennifer includes a raw egg yolk in her cake icing (“Just call me Miss Salmonella.”)
REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST: The ladies recall eating black treacle (molasses) as children, and when Jennifer tastes Clarissa’s gingerbread batter, she smiles and says, “Childhood, childhood.”
STRONG OPINIONS: Jennifer has “always rather revered” the Women’s Institute, and Clarissa calls it “the SAS of British cookery,” though the reference is unclear to me – it seems she probably means the Special Air Service (Britain’s special forces). Whatever it means, she obviously thought it was hot stuff because she used it again in Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies.
Jennifer, on almond essence:
Don’t get something called “almond flavoring,” get the real essence. Almond flavoring’s disgusting.
She also addresses the chickens at the farm thus: “Your produce is good, but you are idiots.”
Clarissa brings up the subject of apples for baking:
Clarissa: Don’t use golden delicious.
Jennifer: They’re no use, are they. No flavor.
Clarissa: No use to man or beast. It’s extraordinary, you know, the way they sort of, they breed flavor out of apples.
Jennifer: They breed flavor out of anything they can get their hands on, nowadays.
Clarissa: Well, that’s very true.
Jennifer: Just to get them the right size. Who the hell cares?
Clarissa: Yes, I blame the Americans. They’re so afraid of flavors. Strong flavors, strong emotions . . .
Jennifer: Not only the Americans. The Dutch breed every living morsel of taste out of them. Those huge tomatoes, all perfect in size. The carrots, when you leave them somewhere, turn into something like the monster from the Black Lagoon – a sort of terrible goo, and no taste again. Or their aubergines. I mean, if it’s Dutch, don’t buy it. Sorry about that. Except for other things – I mean, their eels are wonderful.
SONGS AND MUSIC: Jennifer thunders “Jerusalem,” the anthem of the W.I., while operating her electric mixer. (Clarissa comments on the lyric “Bring me my Arrow of desire”: “I never understood why ‘desire’ for the Women’s Institute. . . .”)
STYLE WATCH: Jennifer wears some smart seersucker trousers, and her brassiere makes its first appearance on the series.
Speaking of brassieres, she also chides Clarissa for not bringing anything to collect eggs in (“like a foolish virgin!”):
Jennifer: Use your brassiere – you could fill them with many eggs!
Clarissa: Jennifer, I’m not taking my underwear off in front of these poor innocent chickens, to say nothing of the cockerel.
Clarissa wears her sunglasses on top of her head.
ON DRINKS AND DRINKING: The inclusion of kirsch in Jennifer’s galette causes Clarissa to say, “Oh, the wild cherry trees growing on the slopes of—” something that’s unintelligible to me. It sounds like “Avery Vickervere,” but I haven’t been able to identify it. Perhaps a reference to Egri Bikavér? Or something to do with Efri-Vik in Iceland? Not sure either of those make sense, but whatever it is, Jennifer responds, “You’re going off on one of your travel dreams.”
In the epilogue, there is also the first allusion to Clarissa’s alcoholism:
Jennifer: Let’s go back and have a bath and a large drink.
Clarissa: Well, I’ll settle for the bath, you can have the huge drink.
Jennifer: Can I have a bath as well? I need one.
SUGGESTIONS OF SEX: Clarissa refers to the rape scene in Last Tango in Paris when greasing her cake pan.
When Jennifer is applying her pasty crust, she says, “Then we do this thing called knocking it up,” and Clarissa replies, “Say ‘knocking it up’ to an American, they get very distressed.”
When looking at the chickens, Jennifer says, “I think that wonderful cock is marvelous.”
MEMORABLE MOMENTS: Jennifer says “Avanti” as they arrive at Anthea’s house and “Che bella vista!” at the farm. The W.I. women request “nothing too sweet” for the fête [a request that is ignored, it should be noted], and the ladies respond as follows:
Jennifer: People are regarding their diets – unlike us.
Clarissa: Our duty is to be fat.
After separating her egg yolks, Jennifer says to Clarissa, “Don’t worry, dear, I’ve saved the whites. We can have a face pack afterwards.”
Clarissa calls Jennifer “chook” and “chooky,” seemingly with affection. Jennifer calls Clarissa a “serf” when asking for her help with something.
And Jennifer says “whirly, whirly, whirly” while icing her cake.
[UPDATE: Eagle-eared reader Mark L. points out that while on the field trip Clarissa suggests the farm fields have been “peed in by every villager.” Thanks, Mark! – WK]
PHONY BUSINESS: Jennifer pretends “accidentally” to get chicken feathers in her hair (“Disgusting”).
In the epilogue, they try to convince the audience that a little boy broke a tooth on the gold ring in Jennifer’s gallete.
TRADEMARKS: Jennifer complains about the heat multiple times. The weather inspires this exchange:
Clarissa: Oh, what a glorious day – England at its finest.
Jennifer [sounding doubtful]: Yes, it’s lovely. . . . I hope it won’t get too hot. I’m not fond of heat.
She also complains about having to walk:
Jennifer: How far is it?
Clarissa: Oh, not far, they said it was just down here a bit.
Jennifer: You know what they’re like in the country, they mean five miles.
She seems to feel this way genuinely, even if their catching a ride back to the village in a Kirby & West dairy truck, ostensibly to protect her feet, is obviously a set-up. [Or perhaps not? In Enjoy!: A Celebration of Jennifer Paterson, her friend, the scholar Clare Asquith, noted that Jennifer once had “a bizarre, experimental operation [that] put metal rods in her feet, the un-fairy-tale equivalent of walking on knives.”] She also seems to like this truck, saying she’d like “a private one with a fringe around it.”
The kitchen has an AGA, which the ladies imply is difficult to bake in. [In fact, in Spilling the Beans Clarissa writes that while the program became much identified with AGAs (by my count they are found in nineteen of the 24 kitchens the ladies visit), both she and Jennifer hated cooking in them because the heat they produced was inconsistent, usually too hot.]
They use “proper prunes” and “real proper cocoa” in their recipes.