TITLE: Afternoon Tea
NUMBER: Series 2, Episode 4
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 20, 1997
They also pass by a pub called The Cricketers Arms [which, sadly, seems to have closed in 2009].
DISHES: Jennifer prepares “gentlemen’s savory delights,” strips of shortcrust pastry spread with anchovy paste and Parmesan cheese, rolled up and baked. She also does “fancy tartlets,” berry tarts with melted chocolate and sweetened cream cheese filling.
Clarissa does a “royal sandwich” recipe that she attributes to Queen Alexandra, the wife of Edward VII. It’s basically chicken salad with tongue and cress on brown [whole wheat] bread. She also does “Rigó Jancsi’s chocolate slices,” a sort of chocolate angel-food cake layered with chocolate sauce, apricot jam and chocolate whipped cream.
FOOD TIPS AND LORE: Tea has gone out of fashion in England.
Chilling pastry dough makes it easier to work with, according to Jennifer. “Gentleman’s Relish” is anchovy paste. [One of the pleasures of writing this blog is learning arcane food trivia, both from the program itself and from researching its references. For instance, did you know that “Gentleman’s Relish” is also an off-color slang term? You do now, and you’re welcome.]
Heating a knife will make cutting bread easier. Clarissa says “Everyone forgets about tongue,” and Jennifer adds that it is a good economic choice.
When Clarissa puts cress on her sandwich, Jennifer asks if it was “grown on a flannel.” Clarissa laughs and says, “I used to be fascinated by that,” but doesn’t explain. [Apparently during the First and Second World Wars, the British government issued “war cookery leaflets” providing citizens tips for rationing and otherwise making efficient use of food. One such leaflet suggests that herbs can be grown on damp cloth such as flannel, although at least one modern food blogger didn’t have much luck trying.]
Queen Alexandra was “a wonderful woman,” according to Clarissa, and her favorite tea sandwich was “the definitive Edwardian sandwich.”
Clarissa: Cut the crusts off – you never have crusts on an Edwardian sandwich, what else would you give to the poor?
Jennifer: But on the other hand, Nanny would say, “You don’t eat your crusts, won’t have curly hair!”
Clarissa: Well, no doubt all the Edwardian poor had very curly hair.
The ladies discuss strawberries at some length.
Clarissa says the English have to thank an 18th-Century American, John Tradescant, for bringing the strawberry back to Europe from the New World. [It would seem she is referring to John Tradescant the Younger, and though she gets the details wrong, it appears he did have something to do with introducing a type of the berry to Britain.]
This leads Jennifer to bring up “the fellow who brought the yellow ones from Chile.” [Here she is referring to Amédée-François Frézier, who has a legacy in the French word for strawberry (fraise), though I can’t find figure out where the idea comes from that his Chilean ones were yellow.]
Clarissa: Fraises des bois are described as “wet nurses’ nipples.”
Clarissa: If you say so.
Jennifer then mentions [the “futurist” Filippo Tommaso] Marinetti, who created a recipe for “strawberry breasts” [a recipe she herself will make on a future episode – stay tuned]. Clarissa says making that dish “might overexcite” the cricketers.
Rigó Jancsi was “a gypsy fiddler . . . in Buda-Pest–” [she pronounces it very much that way: Buda-Pest] “—in the 1920s. . . . He favored the ladies with rather more than his violin playing, and caused this major scandal. . . . So great was the scandal that shook Buda-Pest that a Viennese confectioner carefully invented a cake and called it after it.”
Chocolate “doesn’t like” being melted quickly. High-quality chocolate “improves the stability of the recipe,” as well as tasting better, according to Clarissa. Said quality is gauged by the percentage of cocoa solids in the chocolate. (Seventy to 80 percent is best.)
Clarissa also describes apricot jam as “so much the flavor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. . . . Think of all those Sachertortes, and things like that.” (But Jennifer dislikes the taste, saying, “I always think the Sachertorte is ruined by that layer of apricot.”)
Jennifer also puts baked goods on her fire escape to cool.
One of them helped the other to escape from Russia “when he was in trouble there,” but it’s not clear which. Clarissa speculates that’s where Jennifer got her dark coloring from, and she responds, “A throwback, yes. I’ve got two blond brothers – very peculiar, unless a milkman was passing by. But as I was conceived in China, it would have been a Chinese milkman, and I don’t think I fit in to that.”
Watching the cricket match, Jennifer gets nostalgic: “It could be forty years ago, couldn’t it. . . . Not a sign of anything dreadful.”
STRONG OPINIONS: Jennifer isn’t picky about the kind of tea she drinks; she likes “good cheap builder’s tea – good strong Indian.” (“Yes, I quite like a strong Indian myself, now and again,” Clarissa says suggestively.)
Jennifer’s favorite sandwich is “a very good ham sandwich,” followed by tongue sandwiches and raw onion sandwiches with mayonnaise, the latter of which she used to eat by the swimming pool in Berlin, “surrounded by Hussars.”
Mascarpone is Jennifer’s favorite cream cheese.
She also thinks red currants are “the most ravishing of fruit.” And she likes strongly flavored breakfasts, “not your wishy washy cereals.”
Jennifer sings a song in Hungarian while Clarissa is talking about her gypsy fiddler – I think possibly this one:
[UPDATE: I had assumed Jennifer was singing the Hungarian word for gypsy, cigány, but reader Andrew points out it might be the German word for the same thing, Zigeuner. He suggests the alternative possibility that it could be this song she’s singing:
[Thanks, Andrew! – WK]
LITERARY/CULTURAL REFERENCES: Clarissa is a qualified cricket umpire and volunteers to oversee a match, to Jennifer’s delight.
She asks a player if “it’ll take seam after tea.” (He replies, “Fingers crossed.”)
There is also this conversation:
Jennifer: I bet you would, I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.
STYLE WATCH: Clarissa’s orange blouse is a bit of a horror. It appears to have jars on it.
Jennifer has interesting pockets on her garment.
Her hair also looks shinier than usual in the opening segment.
Clarissa wears red shoes while strawberry picking and a Panama hat at the cricket match.
XENOPHOBIA ALERT: Clarissa does a Scottish accent – twice.
When praising Dutch-processed cocoa, she also says, “For once, one will be nice about the Dutch.”
After singing her Hungarian gypsy song, Jennifer says, “I always find them very embarrassing, those people.”
ON DRINKS AND DRINKING: Jennifer seems tipsy in the second segment.
SUGGESTIONS OF SEX: When Jennifer says her “gentleman’s savories” can be enjoyed by ladies as well, Clarissa says, “I’ll have the gentlemen, then, shall I.” Jennifer replies, “[We] can’t have you savaging the men!”
Clarissa: She was a splendid woman, Princess Alexandra. When Edward VII was dying, she sent for his favorite mistress to attend him, Mrs. Keppel. That’s what I call style.
Jennifer: She was Camilla’s great-great-grandmother, wasn’t she? Runs in the family.
[Actually, she was just her great-grandmother!]
On the stimulating properties of chocolate:
Clarissa: You get a better high from good chocolate as well. It’s the . . . phenylthrobins? [Actually phenthylamines, but close enough. – WK]
Jennifer: That’s what makes a chocoholic?
Clarissa: That’s what makes a chocoholic. It’s supposed to be the next best thing to sex, they say. . . . Well, possibly more consistent.
See also Clarissa’s “strong Indian” remark under Strong Opinions, above.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS: As they arrive in the village by motorcycle, Clarissa seems concerned about Jennifer’s driving:
Clarissa: Don’t hit the groundsman.
Jennifer: No, he’s sweet!
[A bicyclist approaches.]
Jennifer: Won’t hit the bicyclist, either – good morning!
After berry-picking, Jennifer says, “I’m not very good at toil in the soil.”
Always give your children the bowl to lick. It will encourage them to cook in later life. – Clarissa
A very hammy cricket umpire passes through the serving line near the end of the program:
Umpire: By God, it was hell out there. Decisions, decisions, decisions!
Clarissa: Appealing all over the place, were they?
Umpire: Yes, I’m very appealing, actually.
TRADEMARKS: Jennifer’s split blouse.
Her upbringing in China and ongoing affinity for Chinese culture are mentioned for the first time. [In Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies, Jennifer says she grew up in “Shanghai Gwon” . . . but I’m afraid a search on that name doesn’t bring up anything. Is it misprint, do you suppose? Or a corruption of a Chinese name like Huangpu? I appeal to you, readers. – WK]
The ladies fantasize about “proper ham.” There is an AGA in the kitchen.