NUMBER: Series 1, Episode 5
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: November 6, 1996
SETTINGS: Lennoxlove House, East Lothian, Scotland, “the home of the fifteenth Duke of Hamilton.” Clarissa explains the house’s name: “Well, Frances Stuart, Duchess of Lennox, had a favorite nephew, Lord Blantyre – she’s the one who was Britannia on the coins.
“She left it to him, and its correct name is ‘Lennox’ Love to Blantyre.’” (“We should have such aunts,” Jennifer says.) Clarissa says the Duchess’s ghost still haunts the place. According to her, Lennoxlove is also “only house in Scotland that Mary, Queen of Scots, didn’t bed down in.”
Clarissa also takes the opportunity to lecture Jennifer on the Duke’s ancestors in the portrait gallery, including Lady Mary Feilding, who “was married to the first Duke when she was nine and he was thirteen. . . . She died at twenty-six, having had six children – all girls.” (“What a disgrace,” says Jennifer.) [It’s a good anecdote, but not totally accurate.]
For the field trip segment, they go game bird-shooting on the “Glen Turret Estate” in Perthshire (a fair drive from Lennoxlove). The gamekeeper there is Ian McPhee. Clarissa comments on the smell of cordite from the shotguns.
Jennifer sleeps in a bedroom once occupied by Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
DISHES: Jennifer cooks a rabbit stew, and “medallions” of venison with bramble (blackberry) jelly. (When she points out one serving is two or three pieces, Clarissa says, “I’ll have five, then.”) [I’ve made this recipe too, and it’s good – though the last time I attempted it I used stew meat rather than a better cut of venison, and it wound up being tough and horrible. You live, you learn. – WK]
Clarissa does a terrine of pheasant meat and pickled walnuts. She also cooks partridge with cabbage and juniper berries (“When I say I’m going to cook partridges with cabbage, people look askance at me”), and grouse birds stuffed with apples. (She calls the latter “Duntreath grouse” after a Scottish estate.)
FOOD TIPS AND LORE: Clarissa says, “You may think that game is for the rich, the idle, and the aristo, but you’d be wrong. Game is lean – ‘fat-free,’ if you must – delicious, more importantly, and you can even buy it in supermarkets these days.” Given the episode’s focus, she invokes the sixth Duke of Hamilton, “the hunting Duke,” but Jennifer says she’ll “stick to old St. Hubert” [the patron saint of hunters].
Game needs to have fat added for cooking, because of its natural leanness. A bain-marie (“Mary’s bath”) keeps the bottom of dishes from burning. “Don’t use a cube for stock,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer flours her rabbit pieces in a Ziploc bag rather than “dib-dabbing on,” and warns against getting chili oils in one’s eyes. Her rabbit recipe inspires this conversation:
Clarissa: Until the early Eighteenth Century, when they suddenly started breeding, [rabbits] were a rarity . . . a great luxury food. You used to have warrenders, who were quite high nobles of the court, who looked after the King’s rabbits.
Jennifer: Also, they have a far better taste than your average supermarket chicken.
Clarissa: A board of polystyrene tastes better than the average supermarket chicken.
Pheasants must be hung before cooking, unlike grouse or partridge, according to Clarissa.
Pickled walnuts can add color and flavor to beef stew. Jennifer says she’s cooked “old partridges” in the heart of a whole cabbage before.
Venison is best cooked a little rare. According to Clarissa, the country people say “the Devil pisses on the blackberries” at the end of the season. [Some even say the Devil is responsible for their black color.]
When putting metal foil over the dish containing the grouse, Jennifer asks if it should be wrapped quite firmly; “No, quite loosely,” says Clarissa. “Drape it round the dish, like an evening shawl.”
REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST: Clarissa used to manage a pheasant farm of 25,000 birds:
And don’t let the Fluffy Bunny Brigade ever tell you that they are dear, sweet creatures. They are one of God’s nastiest animals. They come out of the egg trying to peck each other’s eyes out. And they have gang bangs! I mean, all the cocks go round and they jump on this poor little hen pheasant and rape her to death.
Jennifer also takes a (not completely comprehensible) walk down Memory Lane:
Clarissa: Oh, Jennifer, how frightfully pukka!
Jennifer: – and they had a mad Italian consul, who shot everybody, and ended the game.
Clarissa: Forgive my ignorance, but what is chukar?
Jennifer: It’s like a partridge, a desert partridge.
Jennifer: Bigger. Very good to eat.
STRONG OPINIONS: At the mention of Clarissa’s pickled walnuts, Jennifer says, “I hope they’re not those disgusting, heavily vinegared ones you get in pubs – I don’t like that taste.” Clarissa assures them she pickled them herself (“Very proud-making,” says Jennifer).
Jennifer’s favorite game is “anything to eat with bread sauce.”
The stock music played during the shooting-party scene is “Flight by Jet,” performed by the Danish State Radio Orchestra.
At dinner, the piper stands improbably close to the table and plays “The Pibroch of Donald Dhu.”
LITERARY/CULTURAL REFERENCES: Upon seeing the kilted shooting party, Jennifer misquotes Lord Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib”: “The Scotsman came down like a wolf on the fold!/His corsets were gleaming in purple and gold!” (Clarissa: “I don’t think it’s ‘corsets,’ dear.”)
“Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” leads to a discussion of Macbeth’s witches.
(“I make my stocks at midnight,” says Jennifer; perhaps a reference to this song?)
STYLE WATCH: Both ladies wear tartan and seem to be affecting a “country” look (Jennifer’s rainboots, Clarissa’s horsey skirt and Inverness cape, etc.).
There is a good close-up of Jennifer’s driving gloves, and she wears a rather nice headscarf too:
XENOPHOBIA ALERT: Jennifer does a bad Scottish accent.
ON DRINKS AND DRINKING: Clarissa later said that she was somewhat frightened to film the shooting scene because of Jennifer’s drinking, but the latter doesn’t appear to have any problems – that the audience can see, anyway. In the second cooking segment, her speech is a perhaps a little slurred, but she gets through it.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS: Clarissa does a Python-esque impression of a microwave oven.
[UPDATE: I sleuthed this one. It isn’t the Tukai, of course, but rather the Touquet, a French resort town. – WK]
[Later on, Clarissa would become friends with the Duke and for a time was apparently in charge of all the food at Lennoxlove, according to her autobiography.]
[They also embarked on a venture together to bottle and sell some sort of fish sauce Clarissa invented, but apparently it was a flop. But she liked him – in Two Fat Ladies Obsessions, in fact, she includes an ice-cream recipe she named after him.]
MISTAKES: Jennifer’s instructions about marinating the rabbit in advance have been dubbed over afterwards.
Oddly, Jennifer butts in and muddles up not one, but two of Clarissa’s stories. (Perhaps more evidence she drank too much while filming this one?)
In the first, Clarissa tells how her mother buried a haunch of venison given to her surgeon father by “a Highland laird” and couldn’t remember where it was; Jennifer spoils this story by introducing the idea of burying it before Clarissa has told that part.
Then, when she tells about shooting a neighbor’s pet peacock by mistake and serving it to him for dinner, Jennifer literally steals the punchline as Clarissa is beginning to say it: “Well, I didn’t buy it at Harrods!” Fortunately Clarissa has a chance to tell the anecdote fully in Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies; at any rate, she doesn’t seem put out by the interruptions.
TRADEMARKS: There is an AGA in the kitchen. Jennifer puts anchovies in her rabbit stew and praises the flavor contribution they make to many dishes; Clarissa says, “Yes, I was surprised not to find them in your coffee cake.”
We get a good look at the Triumph logo on Jennifer’s bike.