NUMBER: Series 2, Episode 2
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 6, 1997
SETTINGS: Hesket Newmarket in England’s Lake District, where the ladies attend a gathering of vintage motorcycle enthusiasts [the Back Green Rally, held since 1973]. They go for a massed tour with the other bikers around the lakes, the itinerary of which is here:
The field trip segment takes them to Kirkby Lonsdale with its “Devil’s Bridge,” where they stop to get a snack from a sandwich vendor.
(Clarissa says she doesn’t know why it’s called the Devil’s Bridge, but the story is here if you want to read it.)
DISHES: Jennifer makes a pork roast stuffed with garlic and mushrooms (“ceps . . . fungi, porcini. . . . I mean, if you’re a millionaire you can use truffles, which they do in Périgord, but I think that’s a tiny bit extravagant”).
In the second half, she does tomatoes stuffed with ground veal.
Clarissa makes an American-style clam chowder, though she points out the soup isn’t truly American, but rather English in origin. (The Americans did improve it by adding potatoes, she says.) She also does a dish of salmon cooked with oranges. [I have tried this one myself, and it’s not great. – WK]
FOOD TIPS AND LORE: Jennifer says the pork she’s using is obviously “not a factory pig – this one’s been out and about and snuffling.” Dried mushrooms can add flavor to many dishes (casseroles, omelets, e.g.). Her pork dish can be served hot or cold.
Jennifer does not favor cooking whole chickens with their legs trussed, as the inside of the drumstick tends not to cook through.
Clarissa says, “I’m told that more vegetarians relapse on bacon than on any other substance.”
Strong-flavored recipes are a good way to deal with bland farmed salmon. Clarissa’s salmon recipe comes from Robert May, a Seventeenth-Century chef who wrote an early cookbook called The Accomplisht Cook, “in which he apologizes to all his fellow chefs for giving away their trade secrets – a nicety which isn’t practiced today.” (She claims he was the personal chef of James I and VI, but I wasn’t able to find evidence of that.)
She cooks the dish on the stovetop rather than inside the oven to stay true to its Seventeenth-Century origins.
Oranges were a fashionable luxury when the Stuart kings came to England. Nutmeg was also “very much an excitement” at the time:
Jennifer: I’m all for nutmeg. I love it.
Clarissa: It’s a hallucinogenic drug, you know.
Jennifer: Yeah, but you have to eat an awful lot.
Clarissa [nodding]: Probably kill you before you had the hallucination.
You should always smell tomatoes in the store before buying them.
ON HEALTHY LIVING: Jennifer covers her pork roast with pieces of pig skin before cooking it. She says, “I don’t know anyone in England who doesn’t like crackling, except those poor unfortunate vegetarians, I suppose. Seems a pity.”
And speaking of vegetarians, of course they tease a lovely young one named Melody who sells them bacon sandwiches on the bridge.
REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST: Jennifer mentions an Italian friend, “Willie,” who “always cooks salmon with red wine and rosemary.”
STRONG OPINIONS: Jennifer gets defensive when Clarissa questions whether the rubber bands she’s using to truss her pork roast are ordinary ones.
Jennifer, on political correctness in the grocery store:
You can’t always find blood oranges, that’s the trouble. . . . And of course they don’t call them “blood orange” anymore. It’s “ruby.” No blood can be mentioned.
Jennifer: I like the idea of lunch, especially going out to lunch. I feel it’s slightly naughty and immoral. You know, going to a really good restaurant, and then, to make it even worse, to go to a cinema afterwards, especially if the sun is shining.
Clarissa: I wish I had such an easy sense of wickedness.
Jennifer: It’s just that you feel you should be at work, and there you are having a lovely lunch.
Clarissa: So are you “a lady who lunches”?
Jennifer [laughing]: I’m often out to lunch!
Clarissa: Yes, there’s this sort of subculture, isn’t there, of terribly thin, elegant women who go out to lunch.
Jennifer: Yes, they’re the sort, they go to sort of restaurants where they go to be seen.
Clarissa: Well, this would be a good dish for them. I mean, it’s terribly slimming.
Clarissa: Yes, it’s that ruddy Wallis Simpson’s fault; you know, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Look what happened to her.
Jennifer: Poor dear.
There is nothing worse than overcooked fish. I mean, you might as well send out for Chinese takeaway if you’re going to overcook it. – Clarissa
Jennifer says she doesn’t have much of a preference between Italian and Greek olive oils.
SONGS AND MUSIC: Jennifer does “Animal Crackers in My Soup.”
She also sings “Why don’t we change places and dance with me” at one point, but I wasn’t able to track down the reference.
[Wonderful reader Donna has found this one; it’s actually “Change Partners,” by Irving Berlin. Thanks, Donna. – WK]
LITERARY/CULTURAL REFERENCES: Jennifer recognizes another biker’s machine as “a Sunbeam 1920 with an oil-bath chain case.”
There are donkeys in the yard of the house they’re cooking in, which leads to this conversation:
Clarissa: Look at those donkeys. Awfully randy creatures, donkeys.
Jennifer: Oh, they’re sweet. They took a great part in the Bible.
Clarissa: True. . . .
Jennifer: You know, I’m very fond of them.
Clarissa: Yes, well—
Jennifer: Not to be mocked.
Clarissa: No, no indeed – perish the thought, Jennifer!
Clarissa: Fanny Cradock had a wonderful line about rubbing salt into the top of a piece of pork “as if into the face of your worst enemies.”
Jennifer: Her poor husband, she was probably talking of.
And one more reference-tracking fail from yours truly: Jennifer says, “Munch on, munch on, what a lovely luncheon,” but I couldn’t identify the source.
Oddly, neither lady quotes Wordsworth while in the Lake District.
STYLE WATCH: The rally organizer, Tom [Richardson], wears a truly hideous sweater.
Clarissa wears a blouse with fish on it.
[My girlfriend also pointed out that her shoes match the AGA!]
Jennifer’s bare back is visible inside the house and out.
XENOPHOBIA ALERT: Clarissa notes that in Scotland, pork is sold with the crackling removed, and Jennifer says it’s the same way in France. “Maybe Mary, Queen of Scots, started it,” she says, “when she came over with her nasty French ways.”
ON DRINKS AND DRINKING: Jennifer is in a jolly mood and possibly drunk in the first segment. Clarissa says bacon is “a great hangover cure – in the days when I had hangovers.” For her part, Jennifer prefers a full English breakfast for a hangover – “the liver embraces it.”
Jennifer says, “The stuff that’s within the tomatoes you can sieve and whizz and then make yourself a Bloody Mary to keep your spirits up.”
SUGGESTIONS OF SEX: Clarissa: “I must say, I noticed some of your motorcyclists have got awfully good legs.”
Clarissa: People’s dowries used to be paid in pepper, you know.
Jennifer: Well, in the East, I believe the Sultans choose their ladies for their hareem by how many cloves they could put into their navel.
Clarissa: Oh well! I’d have been first on the list, I daresay.
[I wasn’t able to verify either of these claims, but who cares. – WK]
MEMORABLE MOMENTS: Jennifer nicely compliments a man by telling him he doesn’t look as old as his 71-year-old bike (even though he is). They also meet a biker after their own hearts (he’s eating a tongue sandwich).
When they’re showing the finished dishes, Jennifer’s second one is (rather idiotically) described as “A stuffed tomato to have with a potato!”
PHONY BUSINESS: Clarissa crushes crackers for her soup by putting them in a bag on the kitchen floor and jumping on them, all the while shouting, “Supermarket!”
At the end of the episode, Clarissa asks if she can try driving Jennifer’s bike, and they switch places while the bike is in motion. This maneuver is obviously faked – the “Jennifer” is clearly a man twice her size, and anyway, you’re telling me a woman who can’t walk on cobblestones on a hot day without practically falling over can pull this off?
[In Spilling the Beans, Clarissa claims that this wasn’t faked, but I don’t believe that for one second. – WK]
MISTAKES: There’s a weird dubbed-over bit where Clarissa points out it’s potatoes she’s putting into her clam chowder. A large fly can be seen buzzing about the room during the “ladies who lunch” conversation.
TRADEMARKS: There’s an AGA in the kitchen. Clarissa uses an Elizabethan citrus reamer.