TITLE: Barristers at Lincoln’s Inn
NUMBER: Series 3, Episode 4
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: September 23, 1998
SETTINGS: Unusually, this episode opens with a field-trip prologue, set before sunrise. The ladies venture out to visit the famous Smithfield meat market in London. [The market’s business hours are 3 a.m. to midmorning.]
Smithfield is in the same neighborhood as Lincoln’s Inn. The Inn is home to a professional association of barristers (with a voiceover reminding us that Clarissa used to be one) and is the place where ultimately they will be cooking.
On the way there, they pass St. Paul’s Cathedral.
There’s this conversation:
Clarissa: Turn into Queer Street, Jennifer.
Jennifer: They probably call it “Gay Street” now!
Clarissa: No, not that sort of queer, it’s that the bankruptcy courts are here.
[Actually, however, it seems it was called that even before the bankruptcy courts moved to their present location. My girlfriend pointed out that Jennifer laughs at her own joke here.]
At the Lincoln’s Inn gate, they are allowed in by a “Mr. Murrill,” and Jennifer says to him, “I’ll bring you some pudding!”
The kitchen they cook in is dark and cavernous, with an audible echo.
For the field trip, Clarissa gives Jennifer a tour of Lincoln’s Inn, including the crypt. Outside, they meet up with Peter Sheridan, an elegant-looking older man in a pinstripe suit who identifies himself as a former colleague of Clarissa’s.
And remarkably, the ladies are allowed to join in the cocktail party at the end of the episode!
DISHES: Clarissa does Swiss chard with garlic, anchovies and olive oil, and also a salmon mousse.
Jennifer cooks “beef in pastry,” commonly known as beef Wellington or boeuf en croute. For dessert, she does “fragomammelli – strawberry breasts,” a dish the existence of which she discussed in Series 2.
FOOD TIPS AND LORE:
At Smithfield, an Absalom & Tribe butcher points out the fillet on a side of beef, with Jennifer crying out, “Lovely fat, lovely fat!” The butcher says theirs is “proper beef – good Scots beef.” [Or possibly “Scotch beef.” – WK]
Anchovies “dissolve before your very eyes” when cooking, Clarissa says. The stalks of Swiss chard should be cooked separately from the leaves.
Jennifer: Are they particularly Swiss?
Clarissa: No – they’re beta vulgaris, actually. But apparently in the Seventeenth Century, the Dutch vegetable growers used to call any common variety of a plant “Swiss.”
Speaking of foods identified with particular nationalities, Jennifer is reluctant to call her beef dish boeuf en croute or beef Wellington, as she views them both as being foreign appellations:
Jennifer: . . . Strangely enough, I think it’s called “beef Wellington” more in America, though why I don’t know.
Clarissa: —where they first invented the dish.
Jennifer: Ah, so it’s got nothing to do with Waterloo at all.
Clarissa: No, although it has proved to be many people’s Waterloo.
Jennifer says, “Fillet of beef is delicious to cut, but it doesn’t have much taste and it needs some help.”
She also advises using “respectable paté” in the dish; “Not yer nasty cheap stuff,” Clarissa agrees. She puts shortcrust pastry underneath the beef, as it’s less likely than flaky pastry to get soggy. The top she covers with puff pastry (“I cheated – I bought it”).
Finally, she sums up her views on the dish thus:
If you don’t want it rare, I wouldn’t bother to cook it at all.
Clarissa says a mousse is a good way to improve inferior farmed salmon. The blue cheese she uses is Dolcelatte.
The Swedes are “very fond of gherkins” and “love dill.”
Lemon brings out the flavor of berries. The “strawberry breasts” are described by Jennifer as “an amusing pudding from that wonderful book by Filippo Marinetti.” The ingredients include ricotta cheese, thick cream and Campari. Jennifer thinks wild strawberries are best for the “nipples.”
ON HEALTHY LIVING:
Clarissa: He was a Fascist, wasn’t he?
Jennifer: Oh yes, almost bound to be. I wonder if he was vegetarian as well!
Clarissa’s salmon mousse takes the cake a bit, including as it does blue cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, whipped cream and a sour cream sauce.
REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST:
Much of the Smithfield segment consists of the ladies lamenting how the place isn’t what it used to be. [The image of the open London meat market with hanging sides of beef is very famous.]
[It even figures in a dance number in Oliver!:]
When they arrive, they survey the meat counters with everything under glass; Jennifer says it looks “like little shops now” and Clarissa says, “Do you think we’ve come to St. Bartholomew’s by mistake? This is all very clinical.”
Clarissa: What have you done? Where are all the carcasses?
Butcher: The carcasses, all behind here in our germ-free zone. Can’t have it out in the open – EC regulations.
But the butcher takes them behind the scenes to see the “old market,” with sides of beef still hanging everywhere.
Clarissa: This is more like it.
Jennifer: This is how it should be!
Butcher: Yes, make the most of it.
Butcher: This won’t be here much longer. The EC have banned it.
Clarissa: No good ever came out of Brussels but the odd chocolate.
[The butcher seems to be exaggerating, but the European Commission did require major restructuring of the market in the 1990s.]
Later, Clarissa reflects on Smithfield’s history:
The Great Plague didn’t get them; the Great Fire stopped south of Smithfield; the Germans didn’t get them, they went on regardless of the Blitz. . . . None of these things could destroy it – but take dear little Brussels . . .
While wandering around Lincoln’s Inn, Clarissa tells Jennifer of its reputation as a home for foundlings:
Clarissa: You know, the ladies of the night used to come dump their babies in here. . . . The benchers set up an adoption society, and all the girls got dowries, and all the boys were given apprenticeships. And they were all called “Lincoln.”
Jennifer: How very kind of them. All called “Lincoln”?
Clarissa: As their surname.
Jennifer: Oh, but yes. It’d be muddling otherwise.
[I imagine it was fairly muddling anyway. – WK]
At the crypt, they stop to read someone’s stone:
Jennifer: Oh look, we’re on someone. “Here lieth the body of . . . Rich Spooner”! Sounds like a rock star, doesn’t he?
Clarissa: No, no, look, he was a bencher of the Inn, he was frightfully respectable.
The lawyer Peter Sheridan recalls Clarissa’s pipe smoking, and together they remember the tradition of requiring that barristers attend 36 formal dinners per year. Sheridan sadly notes that the custom is “beginning to disappear,” [but apparently it was still enough of a phenomenon in 2011 that somebody wrote a slightly bitchy column about it.]
In the epilogue, there is this conversation:
Clarissa: Did you ever fancy being a barrister?
Jennifer: Yes, I think, I think I would rather have loved it. I love sort of saying things like, “M’lud!”, “M’client!”, all those sort of things. And they make those extraordinary remarks, like that lovely one I adore, “What are Diana Doors?”
Clarissa: And then the lovely F.A. Smith one, when the judge said, “Mr. Smith, what is a sardine?”, and he said, “A sardine, m’lud, is a small fish, canned in oil and eaten with great relish by the lower middle classes.”
[I’m not sure what the Diana Dors comment comes from, or means, but Clarissa repeats it in Spilling the Beans. And I can’t dig up anything about “F.A. Smith” or his sardine comment – sorry.]
[UPDATE: I did a little more digging about the sardine quote. Still wasn’t able to find a definitive source, but it appears there were a number of court cases in the early Twentieth Century concerning what types of fish could legally be marketed as “sardines.” Here’s an example of one.]
Clarissa sums up the visit to her past by saying, “I think I’m quite glad I gave up the law books for the recipe books.”
STRONG OPINIONS: Clarissa criticizes the “horrid cardboard texture” of cottage cheese.
LITERARY/CULTURAL REFERENCES: The discussion of the Duke of Wellington goes on for some time:
Clarissa: I really fancied the Duke of Wellington when I was twelve, fourteen.
Jennifer: I like the Duke of Wellington. Do you remember when his portrait was stolen? No, you were probably too young.
Clarissa: No, I remember that. Yes, I mean, he had such a good nose.
Jennifer: Yes, and other people much prefer, or they worship, Napoleon. I’ve never fancied him.
Clarissa: No. Squinty little fellow.
Jennifer: Squinty is the word.
Jennifer suggests her beef Wellington would be good served cold at a “grand” picnic – “You could be going to Glyndebourne,” she says.
Clarissa suggests molding salmon mousse into “five loaves and two fishes.”
Jennifer says her strawberry breasts are “very suitable on St. Agatha’s Day, which is February the fifth, because the poor saint had her breasts cut off in a terrible martyrdom.” [While this appears to be quite true, it seems St. Agatha survived this ordeal and died later, in prison.]
Jennifer also says “Think Pink” when putting her (strawberry) breasts on a plate.
STYLE WATCH: Clarissa wears a red striped blouse with rather bold lipstick to match. [My girlfriend thinks she looks better with heavier makeup, but I don’t.]
XENOPHOBIA ALERT: Jennifer thinks Clarissa’s Swiss chard looks “very exotic . . . Chinesey.”
SUGGESTIONS OF SEX:
Clarissa’s tour of the Inn concludes with a viewing of “the Hogarth,” a large painting the subject of which is “Paul before Felix.” She says the painting was censored in the Nineteenth Century because the Victorians thought it looked like St. Paul was touching the procurator’s wife’s breast. [Clarissa says it was actually repainted by them, but I can’t find any evidence that happened. The theme of the painting is certainly sexual in nature, however.]
While Jennifer is molding her dessert:
Jennifer: What cup size?
Clarissa: What cup size, yes.
Jennifer: Coffee cup?
Clarissa, whose alcoholism ultimately ruined her legal career, recalls that drinking port was her favorite part of the barristers’ dinners.
Clarissa says Campari is a good hangover cure, and Jennifer says, “I love it, but I like it in Italy – you know, in a hot square or something like that. Not on a cold English day, it doesn’t go at all.”
Jennifer slurs a bit in the first sequence and seems very drunk indeed in the second.
Trimming her pastry crust, Jennifer says, “I could be making dainty little leaves with the leftovers, but I’m not going to bother with all that fiddle-faddle.”
Jennifer also makes a side-trip into the kitchen’s huge walk-in refrigerator during the second segment. Clarissa says she’ll “send out a St. Bernard” if she doesn’t come back.
MISTAKES: This episode has perhaps more dubbed-over “afterthought” instructions than any other. The sound department tried to give them the same echoing quality as the cooking chamber, but it’s very obvious. The effect is particularly funny because of the way they’ve edited it into the live cooking segment:
Recorded Clarissa: It’s very important when cooking chard to remember to blanch it first. That is, you put it into boiling water for a few minutes, then drain it off.
Live Clarissa: And you cook it until it goes translucent.
Recorded Clarissa: Once it is, I’ll add the chard greens, but this’ll take about ten minutes. So why don’t you carry on, Jennifer?
Recorded Jennifer: Sure!
Live Jennifer: I’m going to cook beef in pastry with various things wrapped around it. . . .
Jennifer’s instructions for cooking mushrooms for the beef in pastry are also dubbed.
Jennifer refers to an icing spatula as a “scalpel,” and Clarissa says, “Don’t get carried away, Doctor.”
TRADEMARKS: Anchovies (from Clarissa this time) in the Swiss chard. We see the split in the back of Jennifer’s garment again (we haven’t in a while).