“Fancy is as fancy does” – Afternoon Tea

TITLE: Afternoon Tea

NUMBER: Series 2, Episode 4

ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 20, 1997

SETTINGS: The village of Warborough in Oxfordshire.

Warborough

The ladies cook a post-match tea for the local cricketing club, using the kitchen of a 17th-Century manor house. [The head of the club says the manor was built in 1698, but Wikipedia says 1696.)

Warborough cricketers.

Warborough cricketers.

Manor house

They also pass by a pub called The Cricketers Arms [which, sadly, seems to have closed in 2009].

Cricketers Arms 2

For the field trip, they go strawberry-picking at berry farm called Oldown Country Park [in Banbury?].

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.

Gorey tea

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.]

Gentleman's Relish (def. 1).

Gentleman’s Relish (def. 1).

Heating a knife will make cutting bread easier. Clarissa says “Everyone forgets about tongue,” and Jennifer adds that it is a good economic choice.

Tongue sandwich

Tongue sandwiches

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.]

Cress

WWI

Ministry of FoodQueen Alexandra was “a wonderful woman,” according to Clarissa, and her favorite tea sandwich was “the definitive Edwardian sandwich.”

Queen Alexandra.

Queen Alexandra.

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.

Poor

Or perhaps not.

The ladies discuss strawberries at some length.

Bosch strawberryClarissa 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.]

John Tradescant and his wife.

John Tradescant and his wife.

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.]

(Red) Chilean strawberries.

(Red) Chilean strawberries.

frezier

Amédée-François Frézier.

Clarissa: Fraises des bois are described as “wet nurses’ nipples.”

Jennifer: Delicious!

Clarissa: If you say so.

fraises des bois

Fraises des bois (wild strawberries).

“Delicious!” “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.

Marinetti.

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.

[Interestingly enough, Wikipedia tells us that when the Chilean strawberries were brought to Europe they thrived around Brest, France. Ha!]

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.”

Rigo Jancsi (r.).

Rigó Jancsi (r.).

Hungarian dance orchestra, circa 1920s.

Hungarian dance orchestra, circa 1920s.

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.”)

Austro Hungarian Empire

Sachertorte.

Sachertorte.

Jennifer also puts baked goods on her fire escape to cool.

REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST: Jennifer’s great-grandfather was “a Viennese nobleman of the Holy Roman Empire” and a friend of the composer Wagner (although the latter was “a horrid old man”).

The emblem of the Holy Roman Empire.

The emblem of the Holy Roman Empire.

Richard Wagner -

Richard Wagner – “a horrid old man.”

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.”

Jennifer never drank tea until she was in her mid-forties and was diagnosed with jaundice. [My girlfriend noted dryly that jaundice is associated with alcoholism. Certain types of tea are apparently prescribed for the condition in traditional Chinese medicine.]

Jaundice patient.

Jaundice patient.

She was hospitalized for it at a “Dickensian hospital” [presumably this one] “overlooking Brompton Cemetery.”

Royal Brompton Hospital.

Royal Brompton Hospital.

Brompton Cemetery.

Brompton Cemetery.

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.)

Builder's Tea ad (vintage).

Builder’s Tea ad (vintage).

Builder's Tea ad (contemporary).

Builder’s Tea ad (contemporary).

Before the beginning of the match some wrestlers challenge each other.

“I quite like a strong Indian myself, now and again.”

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.”

Hussar.

Hussar.

Mascarpone is Jennifer’s favorite cream cheese.

Mascarpone

She also thinks red currants are “the most ravishing of fruit.” And she likes strongly flavored breakfasts, “not your wishy washy cereals.”

SONGS AND MUSIC: The incidental music during the field trip is George Butterworth’s “English Idyll No. 1.”

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.

Onto the field

Umpiring

Delight

She asks a player if “it’ll take seam after tea.” (He replies, “Fingers crossed.”)

There is also this conversation:

Clarissa: Only one slip and no gully? I’d have played a silly mid off in that action, and well, you know.

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.

Jars

Jennifer has interesting pockets on her garment.

Pockets

Her hair also looks shinier than usual in the opening segment.

Shine 2

Shine 1

Clarissa wears red shoes while strawberry picking and a Panama hat at the cricket match.

The fat lady with one red shoe.

The fat lady with one red shoe.

Panama hat

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.

Left to right: The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), Queen Victoria, Princess Alexandra.

Left to right: The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), Queen Victoria, Princess Alexandra.

Alice Keppel.

Alice Keppel?

[UPDATE: Reader John writes that this photo is not of Alice Keppel, but rather of Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Greece and Denmark! Most embarrassing, especially as the wrong photo’s been up for four years. Does this mean I’m fake news? Well, no matter. Here’s the real Mrs. Keppel; and thanks, John. – WK]

Alice Keppel

Jennifer: She was Camillas great-great-grandmother, wasn’t she? Runs in the family.

“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.

keep-calm-and-be-a-chocoholic

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!

“Won’t hit the bicyclist, either.”

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.

The U.K.'s hammiest cricket umpire (l.).

The U.K.’s hammiest cricket umpire (l.).

TRADEMARKS: Jennifer’s split blouse.

“Not a sign of anything dreadful.”

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] 

[UPDATE: Lady Montdore (I knew I’d get a peeress reading this blog sooner or later) writes: “According to Jennifer’s older brother, Charles, in his tribute in ‘Enjoy! A Celebration of Jennifer Paterson,’ the family had a summer bungalow in the seaside resort of Shanhai-kwan (Shanhaiguan) when they lived in Tientsin (Tianjin) while their father worked for the Asiatic Petroleum Company. This is in northeastern China, where the Great Wall meets the sea. Charles describes collecting jellyfish on the beach for their amah, as Jennifer does in ‘Cooking.’ He writes that the family returned to England for good in 1932, so it doesn’t seem Jennifer ever lived in or near Shanghai.”

I am grateful to her ladyship for saving the day. – WK]

Upon learning that they will be picking their own berries, Jennifer again complains about “crouching.” (Clarissa says at least they’re “not picking for Wimbledon.”)

StrawberriesWimbledon

The ladies fantasize about “proper ham.” There is an AGA in the kitchen.

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14 thoughts on ““Fancy is as fancy does” – Afternoon Tea

  1. Yes, cigány/cigani and Zigeuner are the same word – gypsy – in Hungarian and German, respectively. It’s definitely that word she sings, though my sense is she’s referencing the stereotype of a gypsy fiddler in a restaurant rather than something operatic. (At least, if there is an aria on the lyric “O Zigeuner” I can’t find it.)

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  2. You’re probably right about the stereotype of a gypsy fiddler. Since I was quite sure she sings the German word Zigeuner I searched for that and found a German song from 1970 by a Erik Silvester – Sag’ ein Wort, Zigeuner, Oh Zigeuner. It’s indeed about a gypsy fiddler (spiel auf deine Geige = play on your violin, he sings).

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  3. Huzzah for Rigo Jancsi. If I were a 1920s lady I’d be beguiled by the moustache alone. I always rather liked this episode- due to the references of China, and the desserts. Don’t you think her gentlemen’s savory delights are what we, in America, call a biscuit? You know, like a buttermilk biscuit without the buttermilk. I know that in England, a biscuit is more like what we call a cookie… confusing English variations!

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    • Well, to me it seems Jennifer’s dough for the delights is more like piecrust dough. Clarissa’s corn griddle cake batter in another episode seems more biscuit-y to me . . . though I think we may have regional differences about what makes a “proper” biscuit even here in the U.S.!

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  4. Also, Mario Batali made a Sicilian dessert called “Seni di Virgine” or virgin’s breasts; I thought it was similar to this but it’s not; they are sort of custard tarts with pumpkin and chocolate, and topped(I think) with a candied cherry.

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  5. Thank you so much for creating this splendid blog! It’s such a pleasure to read and reread in concert with watching and rewatching TFL.

    Regarding your geographical appeal—according to Jennifer’s older brother, Charles, in his tribute in ‘Enjoy! A Celebration of Jennifer Paterson’, the family had a summer bungalow in the seaside resort of Shanhai-kwan (Shanhaiguan) when they lived in Tientsin (Tianjin) while their father worked for the Asiatic Petroleum Company. This is in northeastern China, where the Great Wall meets the sea. Charles describes collecting jellyfish on the beach for their amah, as Jennifer does in ‘Cooking’. He writes that the family returned to England for good in 1932, so it doesn’t seem Jennifer ever lived in or near Shanghai.

    I definitely recommend reading ‘Enjoy!’ if you haven’t already. It fills in so many gaps in our knowledge about Jennifer and her rather eccentric life.

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  6. Be warned: the book is not all praise. There is much griping about a perceived lack of reciprocation of hospitality on Jennifer’s part, especially once TFL took off and she had a large income. But, that said, it is overall a very fun read!

    I think the Shanghai mistake came from a transcription error. The little biographical asides printed in ‘Cooking’ seem to be from recorded conversations had during pre-production for the series. This also would explain how Jennifer often seemed to know the ending of Clarissa’s anecdotes–as was the case for the haunch of venison and the peacock. Alas, we may never know, given Pat Llewellyn’s untimely death last year.

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    • Yes, of course that’s a logical explanation. It’s surprising their conversations always seem so spontaneous, since they weren’t professional broadcasters and so much obviously would have been pre-discussed up front. (I suppose Jennifer’s intoxication made their talk seem unrehearsed no matter what.) I had not heard the news about Pat Llewllyn! I confess I don’t keep up the daily ‘Two Fat Ladies’ google I did whilst writing this blog. What sad news – I do believe she created most of the magic that made TFL the miracle it was. Can’t wait to read the JP book – I much prefer a tell-all to a lionization, my own approach to Real Proper excepted of course. 😉

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