NUMBER: Series 2, Episode 5
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 27, 1997
(There is some steam, and Jennifer describes the place as “a beer Turkish bath.”) The kitchen they cook in is at the Old Vicarage in Masham.
Clarissa: In the old days, I suppose vicars were good Christians and had lots of children, so they needed these big houses. Now they’re all gay, so they’ve sold them off.
Jennifer: Well, they can’t afford the heating!
For the field trip, they go to a family-run smokehouse in Whitby (Fortune’s Kippers), in what looks like bad weather. The viewer’s impressions of the town aren’t helped by a shot of the filthiest child in Britain staggering across a beach of dead fish.
(However, the viewer awards all points back to Whitby upon seeing this photo of the Fortune family grandchildren with the ladies.)
DISHES: Clarissa does American corn griddle cakes with sweet corn, bacon and maple syrup. She also does huevos rancheros, a traditional Mexican breakfast of egg, meat and tortilla.
FOOD TIPS AND LORE: At the brewery, the ladies discuss Black Sheep’s strong ale, Riggwelter, which the brewer tells them is “a dialect word [that] describes the situation when a sheep is laid on its back because it’s rolled over and its fleece is too heavy for it to get back up again.”
Jennifer: What happens?
Brewer: Oh, it dies, in short order.
Jennifer: How quickly?
Brewer: In hours.
Jennifer asks Clarissa if her griddle cakes will be scone-like in texture, and she says they’re “more like a pikelet.”
According to Jennifer, kidneys for breakfast are “excellent, you know, for robust sort of hunting people who’ve probably been out for a little walk before breakfast and they come in and they’ve got to get all ready for the ride!” Similarly, Clarissa says her huevos rancheros are a good breakfast choice for ranchers, as “they’re out sort of branding a couple of cows before breakfast.”
Lambs’ kidneys are better than calves’ for breakfast because of their smaller size. Jennifer demonstrates how to “core” a kidney by removing the white center part [the renal pelvis? – WK].
Jennifer: If you overcook [kidneys], what you get is leather.
Clarissa: Yes, if you overcook anything, really. I mean, people who ask for well-done steaks in hotels get what they deserve.
Jennifer: Yes, you get an old boot, don’t you.
Hard-boiled eggs also shouldn’t be overcooked.
Jennifer’s “devil’s sauce” is composed of butter, “mushroom ketchup,” “dear old Worcester sauce,” dry mustard, cayenne and Tabasco. She says it will “blow the morning cobwebs away.” Turkey legs are also good deviled.
Kippers take eighteen to twenty hours to smoke, while a salmon takes two or three days. Don’t buy “bright yellow” smoked fish, says Jennifer. (“It’s dyed.”)
Fish smoked in England is less smoky than that in Europe. Eating bread with kippers “helps the bones go down.”
“Breakfast is important in a hot climate,” says Clarissa, “because at lunchtime it’s really a little too hot to eat.” She again warns against salting beef before cooking, which will dry it out. (She utters a squawk to impersonate the beef itself.)
In addition to breakfast, kedgeree is “very good for supper parties after great balls in the country,” according to Jennifer. The components can be prepared individually and assembled later. She puts turmeric in it, saying that it’s a “very good dye,” and that “I imagine that’s what they use when they say ‘saffron robes’; it’s probably turmeric robes for the Buddhist monks.” [Wikipedia says it’s not actually that great of a dye, but she’s right about the monks using it.]
ON HEALTHY LIVING:
Clarissa eats porridge every day for her breakfast, “and whatever else God provides.” She says there’s nothing wrong with eating garlic for breakfast; “What about those of you who are popping garlic pills in the morning?”
Jennifer cooks her kidneys in oil AND butter (not to mention the sauce, which must be 50 percent butter in itself).
In the smokehouse, there is this exchange:
Jennifer: I love the black drippings from the sides.
Clarissa: That’s what your lungs are like, Jennifer.
Jennifer: Nonsense. They’re not full of fish oil.
(Both ladies and the fishmonger ultimately convulse in a coughing fit during this segment.)
REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST: Clarissa once had a keg of beer explode near her.
She also speaks nostalgically of hunting and shooting breakfasts, “with everything laid out beautifully.”
Clarissa: My mother was deeply committed to the romance of the Deep South of America. So, when these moods hit her, we used to have corn griddle cakes for breakfast. Finally, my sister married a man from South Carolina, and my mother was cured. . . .
Jennifer: I’m intrigued – why did your mother turn against your brother-in-law?
Clarissa: One day he decided to make her a mint julep, a thing for which she had yearned all her life – and he made it with salt instead of sugar.
Jennifer: Oh, horrors, horrors!
Clarissa: And my mother, with all the politeness that only women of her generation could muster, said, “This wasn’t how I imagined it would be at all,” and drank it. And never spoke to him again.
Jennifer: She probably vomited!
Clarissa: No, no, no, she had a very strong constitution.
[After Clarissa has finished her griddle cakes:]
Clarissa: And over it you pour . . . maple syrup.
Jennifer: Oh, I could do without that.
Clarissa: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. You’d best get in the spirit of the thing. . . .
Jennifer: What is it they say? “Save the syrup.”
Clarissa: Save the . . . hold the syrup.
Jennifer: Hold it!
Together: Hold the syrup!
Clarissa criticizes the EU for the first time, when the fishmonger says he can’t ship his kippers because of their regulations.
Bloody Brussels. Do you know that there are fifty-six words in the Lord’s Prayer, and two thousand six hundred in the EC regulations for the export of duck eggs? – Clarissa
[Clarissa gets the Lord’s Prayer word count right, provided you include an “Amen.” The duck-egg regulation she mentions probably doesn’t exist, but there’s an interesting discussion of the claim here.]
It’s such an underappreciated fish, the haddock, isn’t it. We’re so rude about it. If somebody’s down and glum, you say they’re “haddock-mouthed,” you know. And yet, it repays you so kindly if you show it a little affection. – Clarissa
Clarissa calls supermarkets “palaces of Hell.”
SONGS AND MUSIC: The episode opens with a Black Sheep employee banging kegs along to the background music.
Jennifer sings “Down in the Canebrake,” a traditional Southern folk song.
When making her huevos rancheros, Clarissa says, “I suppose the señoras eat this for breakfast as well as the rancheros,” which leads Jennifer to quote “dear old Dougie Byng”:
I’m Mexican Minnie! I waggle my chinny!
I loll in the mountains all day!
And something about the bandits:
They get very reckless, and will stay to breakfast –
They shan’t see my tango today!
“I hope we see your tango today,” says Clarissa.
LITERARY/CULTURAL REFERENCES: Clarissa calls Jennifer “Miss Scarlett” at one point.
Jennifer describes the smokehouse as “an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful kippers.”
When Jennifer says it’s time to make “the devil’s sauce,” Clarissa says “the devil’s heart” in a sinister voice. [It’s unclear if it’s a specific reference to anything but it’s worth noting there are multiple romance novels and at least one Star Trek book with that title.]
STYLE WATCH: Jennifer wears a black bra in this episode.
XENOPHOBIA ALERT: Clarissa does a lot of bashing of North Americans. She affects a Southern accent a few times, saying sweet corn is “the real taste of the Deep South. Everything is sweet corn down there; it’s about all they have, honeychild.”
She also says, “Why is it that the Americans and the Scots call it a ‘girdle,’ and the English call it a griddle? I suppose it’s Victorian politeness.” [I have never heard anyone in any part of the U.S. refer to a griddle as a “girdle,” though it appears they are called that in Scotland, Wales and parts of England. – WK]
Buenos dias, mi amigos, as they say in Mexico. – Clarissa
[My ex-wife is Latina and always was annoyed by the huevos rancheros segment in this episode.]
Jennifer says “slap, slap, slap, slap” while imitating a Mexican woman making tortillas.
On working with hot chilies:
Clarissa: Steal some of these plastic gloves from a service station or something rather than get it on your hands, because you’re bound to rub your eyes.
Jennifer: It’s murder!
Clarissa: You know, in Mexico, when children were bad, they used to rub chilies onto their eyelids—
Jennifer: Oh my goodness me!
Clarissa: –and onto their lips. Charming, isn’t it?
[I wasn’t able to verify this. I did find claims that the Aztecs punished children by making them inhale the smoke from burning chilies, and that chilies figured in some traditional Mexican exorcisms. And sadly, it is true that “hotsaucing” is apparently a thing these days, though I’m not sure if it’s related to what Clarissa’s talking about.]
And just when you think all the Mexican business is finally over, she says, “Put a caramba into your day!”
ON DRINKS AND DRINKING: The episode opens with the following voiceover:
Jennifer: We’re cooking breakfast in a brewery today, Clarissa! I hope you don’t mind!
Clarissa: Well, as long as you don’t expect me to drink any of the beer!
Jennifer . . . had no desire to stop drinking. She was, however, very protective and supportive of me. Once when someone offered me champagne Jennifer flew at him, and I had to explain that I was quite capable of refusing on my own. But I was very touched.
In the epilogue, Clarissa recalls drinking beer for breakfast. Jennifer says she is “unaccustomed to beer,” and offers this faint praise after tasting the brewery’s offering: “Curious taste – never mind. Here’s to the Black Sheep.”
SUGGESTIONS OF SEX:
Clarissa is in a saucy mood at the smokehouse in Whitby. First she says, “One should strip to the bare essentials , Jennifer, lest all our clothes be kippered.” Then she flirts outrageously with the staff, asking, “Are all the fishmongers so handsome around here?” [My girlfriend said, “He is handsome,” so I guess we’ll leave it at that. – WK]
Here’s a more recent photo of him:
Jennifer’s postulations on the origins of kedgeree take an interesting turn:
Jennifer: Good old kedgeree, one of the most comforting of dishes. It was originally from India, and it was a simple, almost a sort of peasant dish, made out of just rice and lentils, and anyway, some old colonel probably brought it back and said to his cook, “Now, this is what we had, you do the same thing.”
And so, she got rid of all the lentils, and never seen the nasty little things—
Clarissa: Hurrah, always get rid of all the lentils.
Clarissa: Well, I mean, you have no idea how randy they make vegetarians.
Jennifer: I have no idea.
Clarissa: That’s why you always see ripped packets of lentils in health-food shops, you know.
Jennifer: Why do they rip them?
Clarissa: Yeah, well, to get at them.
Jennifer: They have to buy the whole packet!
Clarissa: They’re frenzied.
Jennifer: Dishonest as well!
[Lentils apparently were considered to have aphrodisiac powers in antiquity, some say by Hippocrates himself. Not sure how much truth there is to the rest of Clarissa’s insinuation. – WK]
Jennifer: Now, you like a great big breakfast, don’t you?
Clarissa: Oh, yes!
Jennifer: A great trencherwoman in the morning.
Jennifer: And through the day, come to think of it.
Clarissa: Well, one has to keep one’s strength up, don’t you know.
Clarissa adds two tablespoons of butter to her griddle cake batter, “and a little bit for luck,” then makes a crazy face.
She also does a Cockney accent at one point (“froy yer onions”).
While Jennifer’s spicy sauce is cooking, the ladies take a deep whiff of it and sigh; then Jennifer says something and they both laugh. [I have no idea what it is. To me it sounds like “Not bestirred!”, though I can’t see what that means. My girlfriend thought it was “Nutbuster!”, which made me spit out my club soda but doesn’t seem too likely.
[UPDATE: Helpful reader Chadwick writes: “It’s ‘Not Bisto!’, in reference to the British gravy Bisto, which has the slogan, ‘Aah! Bisto.'” And so it is! Here’s a TV ad to prove it:]
Jennifer pronounces Et cetera in the Italian fashion. Clarissa’s reflection is visible in her cooking oil:
PHONY BUSINESS: Clarissa says she once confused the Spanish words for eggs (huevos) and grapes (uvas) at the Ritz in Madrid, and claims room service actually delivered two cooked grapes up to her room.
MISTAKES: Clarissa’s griddle cakes are horribly burned, the worst such disaster we’ve seen on the program so far.
[In Spilling the Beans, she throws Rex Phillips, the program’s sound technician, under the bus for moments like these:]
[. . . He was such a perfectionist that I ruined many pans so that he could record the extra sizzle.]
Finally, the “breakfast” device is perhaps taken a little too far, since the entire program – arrival, brewery tour, both cooking segments and the field trip – takes place during daylight hours, and yet everyone pretends to be eating the meal in the early morning at the conclusion of the episode. They even go so far as to dub noisy roosters and ducks over the second segment, as if to reinforce that it’s dawn – but they’re not even on a farm!
TRADEMARKS: The ladies cook in the kitchen’s AGA. Jennifer mixes smoked fish and curry powder with her hands.
Jennifer also heaps parsley on her kidneys, and puts “proper salt and pepper” on them. (She does not mention what other kind of salt and pepper there is.)
Jennifer complains about the cobblestones on the way to the smokehouse.