“Stirring times for stirring songs for stirring soup” – A Picnic

TITLE: A Picnic

NUMBER: Series 2, Episode 3

ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 13, 1997

[Again, Amazon presents this episode out of order.]

SETTINGS: Llandudno, Wales (“North Wales” according to the titles). The city is a seaside holiday destination, and the episode opens with the ladies dipping their feet into the water.

Beach

They cook for the Colwyn Male Voice Choir [Côr Meibion Colwyn in Welsh], whom Jennifer refers to as “all those lovely Men of Harlech” (apparently confusing the subject of the song with those who sing it).

[Here is “Men of Harlech” (the song) as it famously appears in the film Zulu (at 1:55):]

And here is a photo I found of cast and crew with singers:

TFL with the choir

The choir is “staying” at a bed and breakfast in Llandudno[, though that seems odd since their home base of Colwyn is not even twenty minutes away]. The B&B in question is a converted lighthouse overlooking Colwyn Bay; it was decommissioned in 1985 and bought from the Mersey Docks and Harbor Board.

Mersey Docks and Harbour Board

It “looks more like a domestic castle” than a lighthouse, according to Jennifer.

TheLighthouseGreatOrme

For the field trip, they go to Llandudno Pier.

Llandudno Pier

At the episode’s conclusion, they take the Great Orme Tramway to the top of a high hill overlooking the sea . . . although since the lighthouse they’ve been cooking in is on the same hill, it’s unclear why they get so excited about it. [UPDATE: In Spilling the Beans, Clarissa writes, “I recall [an] instance when we were supposed to be cooking in a lighthouse at which we were seen arriving, although the actual kitchen was thirty miles away in the country.” So I guess that explains it. – WK]

Tramway

Anyway, the name of St. Tudno, for whom the town is named, is visible on the side of the tram car. [Here is a picture I found of a mosaic in Llandudno that may or may not depict the saint himself:]

St. Tudno?

St. Tudno?

DISHES: Clarissa cooks a “Welsh lamb pie” with carrots, and “Mytton of pork,” a terrine of pork, bacon and stuffing.

Jennifer does tartine – a Provençal roasted vegetable sandwich. She also makes Vichyssoise, the cold potato-leek soup (“crème Vichyssoise glacée, very refreshing on a hot summer’s day!”)

FOOD TIPS AND LORE: [Meat] pies are good for picnics. Many people have reservations about using lamb stock, but it “can be very good indeed” if prepared properly, according to Clarissa. Treating pie crust with an egg wash before baking “for prettiness’ sake” will give it an attractive color.

Welsh bacon and butter are good, though Jennifer finds the latter “a bit salty.” Parsley also “grows well in Wales,” according to Clarissa:

Clarissa: They say that parsley only grows in places where the woman wears the trousers, so I wonder what that says about the Welsh.

Jennifer [after a moment]: I wonder!

Wears the Trousers

“I wonder!”

When talking about her tartine, Jennifer says that in Provence, “you see people holding really big ones and munching along.” [Sadly, I was unable to find photographic evidence.] Any vegetables can be used to make them. To flavor the bread, she says you can spread crushed garlic on it, or simply rub it with a garlic clove if your dinner guests are “squeamish.”

Putting roasted bell peppers in a plastic bag for a short time makes them easy to peel. (They are also good just to eat this way, according to Jennifer.) Pepper seeds are “not particularly good for you, and, like the skin, they’re indigestible.”

Vichyssoise was invented by a French cook [Louis Diat] in the U.S.

Louis Diat, (possibly) the inventor of Vichyssoise.

Louis Diat, (possibly) the inventor of Vichyssoise.

[Though Jennifer does not mention it, the leek is the national symbol of Wales.]

Welsh pound

The leek as depicted on a Welsh pound coin.

The leftover leek greens from the recipe can be used for bubble and squeak. Water is preferable to inferior stock for soups (and cubes “leave a nasty taste”). Using chilled bowls for serving adds a nice touch. (Jennifer and Clarissa both prefer the soup cold, but acknowledge it can be eaten hot.)

Clarissa’s pork dish is named for Squire [John] Mytton. [She describes him simply as “that wonderful hunting squire,” but his biography really must be read to be believed.]

Squire Mytton riding a bear.

Squire Mytton riding a bear.

Clarissa says it’s “an old hunting dish; it’s something you used to take on hunting picnics.” “Would they eat it in the saddle?” asks Jennifer. Clarissa says no, probably when they “stopped for a stand.”

Hunting picnic.

Hunting picnic.

Shooting picnic.

Shooting picnic.

Mace is the husk of the nutmeg; during the Eighteenth Century “it was the sun-dried tomato of the day . . . the latest new ingredient from the spice islands.”

Nutmeg, with the red mace.

Nutmeg, with red mace.

On the boardwalk, Jennifer feeds chips to a seagull, which leads to this conversation:

Clarissa: I love gulls’ eggs.

Jennifer: So do I, and now, it’s very . . . they get more and more expensive, because nobody will face the perils of the cliffs.

Feeding

“Nobody will face the perils of the cliffs.”

It's not hard to see why.

It’s not hard to see why.

ON HEALTHY LIVING:

It’s Be Kind to Vegetarians Week this week, as long as they can eat an anchovy. Some of them can’t, I know. – Jennifer

On the tartine:

Jennifer: It’s just a mess of vegetables, apart from the anchovies. Awfully healthy, you must admit – very unlike me.

Clarissa: Well, you have your moments. It’s whether it tastes nice that matters.

Jennifer: Actually, if it tastes nice it’s probably healthy.

The sandwich is also described as “delicious, despite its vegetarian overtones” (Jennifer).

REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST: “I’m not terribly fond of carrots personally,” says Clarissa, “but it’s been one of the . . . well, perhaps ‘misfortunes’ is too strong a word, of my life to fall in with men who like carrots.” [Misfortunes might be the right word, since Clarissa’s abusive father used to punish her as a child by making her eat dirty, slug-covered carrots from the garden.]

Arthur Dickson Wright.

Arthur Dickson Wright.

Her mother, on the other hand, was Australian, and thought that a picnic wasn’t proper without a fire. (“She didn’t think it was a picnic without billycan tea,” Clarissa says.)

Clarissa and her mother.

Clarissa and her mother, Molly.

Clarissa went to school in Brighton, and Jennifer in Ramsgate.

Brighton.

Brighton.

And Ramsgate.

And Ramsgate.

They reminisce about seaside piers in general, mentioning candyfloss [cotton candy] and the titillations of “What the Butler Saw.”

What the Butler Saw.

What the Butler Saw.

What the Butler Actually Saw.

What the Butler Actually Saw.

What Jennifer Remembers the Butler Seeing.

Clarissa: I had a boyfriend once who, when he’d been eating garlic, used to greet me at the door with a clove of garlic for me to bite. I used to think it was awfully romantic.

Jennifer: I think he thought you were a werewolf.

Clarissa: Maybe that’s what it was!

“I think he thought you were a werewolf.”

STRONG OPINIONS: Clarissa says the Welsh are “devilish cunning.”

Jennifer prefers “rather grand picnics” to “sitting on a stinging nettle eating a wasp.”

The ladies stop on the pier to have some fish and chips [which they consume with unconcealed gusto].

Jennifer: Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Clarissa: That’s how they should be.

Jennifer: And no darn malt vinegar on them! I hate malt vinegar!

Clarissa [laughing]: Great British tradition.

Jennifer: I know!

Clarissa: I like it when they cook them in dripping.

Jennifer: Dripping is wonderful. But if you do it in the home, the smell is terrific!

Clarissa: Terrible, isn’t it.

Jennifer: And it sticks.

“I hate malt vinegar!”

SONGS AND MUSIC: There is a lot of music in this episode. On the boardwalk, a group of elderly people have gathered to listen to an organist playing; some of them are dancing and several are singing along. I’m sorry to say I don’t recognize the tune, as the moment is quite beautiful.

Singing

Dancing

The ladies sing “On the Road to Mandalay” while Jennifer is remembering her time in Asia. (When they’ve finished, she says, “Stirring! Stirring times for stirring songs for stirring soup.”)

Clarissa suggests Jennifer have a singalong with the choirmen, but she declines, saying she’s “not very good at Welsh.” [On their official website, the choir claims that Jennifer sang the Trolley Song from Meet Me in St. Louis during the tram ride, but sadly this moment didn’t survive the editing process.]

At the end of the program, the choir sings two rather lovely songs: “O Gymru” and “Nant y Mynydd.”

LITERARY/CULTURAL REFERENCES: When they arrive at the lighthouse, Jennifer says it would be appropriate to cook beef daube. [Her reference is not explained, but apparently the dish features in Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. Clarissa responds, “That’s a little erudite for us, don’t you think?” and perhaps she’s right.]

Jennifer also says, “Yes, it’s lovely being in a lighthouse, I adore it. I’m a little Grace Darling at heart, waiting to rescue the stranded ships coming over the bay.” Clarissa replies, “I have more of the wrecker in my soul.”

Grace Darling and her father.

Grace Darling and her father rescuing survivors of a wreck.

While prepping vegetables for her tartine, Jennifer says, “I love using the pestle and mortar. It reminds me of the Russian fairytales with the Russian witch, the Baba Yaga, sails along in it, rowing!”

Baba Yaga in her mortar and pestle.

Baba Yaga in her mortar and pestle.

Feeding the seagull on the pier, Jennifer says, “Where did you come from? Saint Francis?”

St. Francis and the birds.

St. Francis and the birds.

STYLE WATCH: The split in Jennifer’s blouse is visible yet again. In an odd reversal of things, her blouse is patterned (it appears to have fireworks explosions depicted on it – or maybe crabs?) and Clarissa’s is relatively plain.

Patterned . . .

Patterned . . .

. . . and plain.

. . . and plain.

There appears to be a wall decoration in the form of a hideous clown face on the kitchen wall.

They say that parsley only grows where people keep terrifying clown art on their walls.

They say that parsley only grows where people keep terrifying clown art on their walls.

The kitchen itself is possibly the nicest one they’ve cooked in so far.

Kitchen

XENOPHOBIA ALERT: Clarissa does a Welsh accent. And Jennifer does an Australian accent when Clarissa is talking about her mother.

Clarissa suggests going for a swim, and Jennifer says she’d like to dive “like a Samoan, four hundred feet down into the depths.”

Pearl DiversClarissa says, “I would throw you silver pennies,” and Jennifer responds, “I remember doing that, coming back on the boat from China.”

Children diving for pennies in hot springs.

Children diving for pennies in hot springs.

Clarissa: I suppose [the mortar and pestle] was the original cooking tool, wasn’t it. You know, a sort of hollow in a rock and a manky old stone and away you go.

Jennifer: Yes, something like that. I mean, even now, when you see these hidden tribes – or even, not so hidden. They’re always at it, aren’t they, grinding something on a stone, maybe with a flattened stone, or another great stone. . . .

Clarissa: And a Boy Scout.

Jennifer: And a Boy Scout. For lunch.

Not so hidden.

Not so hidden.

ON DRINKS AND DRINKING: Jennifer seems a little drunk throughout this entire episode (for anyone who’s keeping track).

SUGGESTIONS OF SEX:

Clarissa: I once saw Catherine the Great’s picnic hamper.

Jennifer: Oh, it must have been magnificent!

Clarissa: Oh, it was wonderful – all gold-plated.

Jennifer: Oh, amazing.

Clarissa: To be carried by eight footmen.

Jennifer: Borne by wonderful Cossacks, I shouldn’t wonder, that she et after lunch.

Clarissa: Yes, but not quite in the same sense.

Catherine the Great.

Catherine the Great.

Cossacks.

Wonderful Cossacks (and others).

Clarissa also jokes that Jennifer does “terrible things with the kitchen vibrator.”

“Terrible things with the kitchen vibrator?”

MEMORABLE MOMENTS:

Jennifer says “windy, windy” while winding twine around her sandwich. And the antique iron she uses to weight it down is “enchanting.”

On Clarissa’s pie:

Jennifer: And then do you leave it to cool?

Clarissa: Yes. You don’t cook it again.

On the boardwalk, they pass a “guess your weight” carnival scale. Clarissa says, “That’s not what I’d call a holiday attraction.” Jennifer says it’s “better not to know,” and concludes that they are “worth our weight in gold.”

Scale

When Jennifer is helped out of her deck chair, she says, “I feel like a beetle on my back.”

Clarissa to the seagull: Don’t come near me, I don’t want to feed you.

MISTAKES: There’s a dubbed-over identification of the pork fillet in Clarissa’s terrine. Jennifer lisps strangely on the word Thermoses.

On the hill, we join the ladies halfway through a mysterious conversation:

Jennifer: . . . And they would stop in the middle of the road, and stop you, and not give way! And they stink to high heaven!

Clarissa: I wonder what they taste like.

Jennifer: I wonder.

You can hear a siren over the singing during the end credits.

My girlfriend loves the Triffic Films credit and always comments on it when it appears.

My girlfriend loves the Triffic Films credit and always comments on it when it appears.

Listening

 TRADEMARKS: Anchovies in the tartine. (Jennifer acknowledges that they are “my favorite.”)

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