“Well, I hate to break this rustic idyll . . .” – On Safari

Title: On Safari

NUMBER: Series 4, Episode 2

ORIGINAL AIRDATE: September 14, 1999

SETTINGS: The ladies visit Knowsley Safari Park in Merseyside.

Knowsley logo

[From what I’ve read, “On Safari” was actually the last episode to be filmed before Jennifer took ill. This interesting timeline of Jennifer’s life claims Series 4 was to have been the final series anyway.]

A very tall man, David Ross [the Park’s general manager], greets them, and teaches them a little bit about the matriarchal society of African elephants. The leader of the elephant group at Knowsley, he says, is a 34-year-old female named [I think] “Tota.”

Clarissa and Jennifer with David Ross (l.) and

Clarissa and Jennifer with David Ross (l.) and “Tota.”

[Observant reader Dino writes:

[Two things. The elephant’s name sounded to me like “Chota,” the Hindi word for “small.” I think it’s meant to be a joke for those who speak Hindi. I’m aware that the elephants are African elephants, but there you go. The chances of someone in Great Britain knowing Hindi are much higher than you’d think, especially when it’s for names and the like.

[Thanks very much, Dino!]

Ross says the elephants spend 18 hours a day eating [which any food person would envy].

The ladies get to feed the elephants by hand, though Jennifer seems a little frightened of them [perhaps recalling the harrowing incident of the Shetland pony on Gretna Green].

Shades of Gretna Green.

Shades of Gretna Green.

At the intermission, they take a field trip to a goat farm run by a “lovely lady” to pick up some cheese, and have a try at goat-milking themselves. (Jennifer has better luck than Clarissa.)

With the lovely goat lady.

Jennifer with the lovely Goat Lady.

At the end of the episode, they drive through the safari park in a Land Rover and stop for a drink and a smoke at the elephant enclosure. [In addition to the elephants, we see barasingha deer, Ankole-Watusi cattle, an American bison, baboons and lions.]

Epilogue

DISHES: Clarissa cooks “a recipe of my mother’s, which is a spatchcocked poussin, deviled.” In the second segment, she does chile rellenos.

Jennifer bakes apple pandowdy, and cooks a “kind of easterny” dish of lamb chops wrapped in phyllo pastry.

FOOD TIPS AND LORE:

Jennifer says it’s wise for Clarissa to devil her poussin:

Jennifer: It’s just as well you’re putting all that on there, because they don’t really have any flavor. They need a little help, rather like a fillet of steak, don’t they. Beautiful texture and no taste.

Clarissa: Yes, well, they haven’t had a very long life in which to acquire much taste. Taste comes with age.

A young poussin.

A young poussin.

Poussins, spatchcocked.

Poussins, spatchcocked.

Clarissa says, “Naught wrong with simple fare.” She calls Jennifer’s piece of lamb “a jigget chop.” Jennifer says “garlic is always delicious with sheep.” If you overcook lamb, it goes “all gray and sad-looking.”

Phyllo pasty must be kept damp while working with it.

Clarissa cooks her chilies in a bamboo steamer basket.

Bamboo steamer

In the garden, the ladies point out gooseberries (which Jennifer loves) and cardoonswell established as Clarissa’s favorite vegetable. [In the introduction to Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies, series creator Patricia Llewellyn says Clarissa was known as “Clarissa Cardoon” before her TFL days.] Jennifer says, “Nice for you to have found one of your beloveds.”

The cardoon flower.

The cardoon flower.

“Nice for you to have found one of your beloveds.”

ON HEALTHY LIVING:

Clarissa says to spread the deviled butter on the poussins “as if you were icing a cake, really” (and she does).

“As if you were icing a cake, really.”

REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST:

Jennifer uses golden treacle, which she calls a “friend of one’s childhood,” in her apple pandowdy. [We have some golden treacle in the cupboard, but I’ve never been too sure what to do with it. Put it in apple pandowdy, I guess. Anyway, I think it tastes like nothing. – WK]

Golden treacle.

Golden treacle.

Jennifer: The only time I didn’t like cinnamon was at school and they used to give us some disgusting medicine flavored with it, I think it was for colds.

Cinnamon medicine

Jennifer as a schoolgirl.

Jennifer as a schoolgirl.

Clarissa, while buttering her chickens:

Clarissa: I was at the dogs, the greyhounds, once, and I had this wonderful bacon sandwich, and the woman said to me, she said, [Northern accent:] “As it’s yours,” she said, “I’ve spread butter on the bread.”

Greyhound Races at Brighton

There is this interesting reminiscence:

Clarissa: Always amazes me, my mother, who never cooked anything – well, she never was allowed to cook anything, they always had servants – until she was in her sixties and my father went off his head and left home, and then she took to it and there were various things that she, um, that she could do. She had about five or six dishes that she did terribly well, and she really enjoyed doing, and this was one of them. So easy, and so good.

Clarissa's parents.

Clarissa’s parents.

And:

Clarissa: My entire family are addicted to chilies. We used to think that my eldest sister was the milkman’s child, because she was the only one who didn’t like chilies.

She says her late brother left her a bunch of dried and bottled chilies in his will.

Jennifer says she wanted to ride a horse in the circus when she was a child.

SONGS AND MUSIC:

Jennifer mentions the Andrews Sisters and sings, “Shoo-fly pie and apple pandowdy/Makes your eyes light up and your tummy say howdy!” She says the song is “from the days of swing, when I was about fourteen.”

The Andrews Sisters.

The Andrews Sisters.

Shoo Fly Pie

[But I can’t find evidence the Andrews Sisters ever recorded that one, actually. Well, here’s Dinah Shore doing it:]

When the ladies are driving through the safari park, there is an odd transition from [passable] “African jungle” music to [absurd] “circus elephant” music on the soundtrack.

LITERARY/CULTURAL REFERENCES:

Clarissa says, “Lead on, Macduff.” [A misquote, I was interested to learn.]

MacduffHeartThe goat farm contains a walled garden – “the perfect Victorian walled garden,” Clarissa calls it. Jennifer suggests it is “beautifully tended by ghosts” and mentions The Secret Garden.

ghost garden

Secret Garden

Jennifer: Now we come to the fun part. We’re going to make the parcels with this already prepared phyllo pastry – which you buy, you do not attempt to make, unless you come from Mesopotamia or somewhere and you’ve been doing it all your life.

[Clarissa gives a silent snort of laughter at this.]

“Unless you come from Mesopotamia or somewhere . . .”

Watching the roaming elephants, Jennifer says they walk “all in uniformation,” and Clarissa says, “I know, the school in crocodile.”

Schoolchildren walking in

Schoolchildren walking in “crocodile” formation.

Doctor Dolittle is also mentioned.

Doctor Dolittle

STYLE WATCH: Clarissa wears a string of pearls and very little makeup. She appears to be wearing the blouse from “Barristers at Lincoln’s Inn” again.

Butter on the bread

There is a scary little character in the corner of the dining room. (I think it’s one of those “butler” statues.)

Creepy

Eek.

XENOPHOBIA ALERT: Jennifer dusts off her African American impression to sing “When I See an Elephant Fly” from Dumbo.

SUGGESTIONS OF SEX:

Jennifer: What gives you more pleasure than fresh herbs just cooking, what?

Clarissa: Well, I can think of some things that give me more pleasure, but not a lot.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS: Jennifer says “Bumpety bumpety!” when they’re driving through the park. She also says “Come on, me poppet” to the goat, and what sounds like “Thanks, Pegs” to Clarissa at one point, but I’m not sure what the latter means. [Reader Dino suggests it’s “Thanks, panks,” a common if incomprehensible endearment in the U.K.]

Despite claiming otherwise, Clarissa seems less than impressed by all the animals they encounter (the live ones, anyway). “Well, I hate to break this rustic idyll,” she says to interrupt Jennifer from her goat-milking.

In the safari park, some baboons jump onto their Land Rover while they’re driving around. [This made me wonder if it was the same safari park so memorably used in The Omen, but it isn’t.]

Baboons

[Baboons at 3:16.]

The ladies set the table again.

Jennifer fantasizes about becoming trapped in the safari park: “The sun will go down, and the cries of the terrible animals will come up . . . jackals, jackals, ready to eat us!”

Jackals ready to eat us

“Jackals, jackals, ready to eat us!”

MISTAKES: The dialogue is largely inaudible as they drive up to the elephant building.

Jennifer says she’s seared her lamb before starting, but it’s quite colorless and almost looks like it’s been poached.

Gray and sad-looking.

Gray and sad-looking.

Clarissa gets into trouble with Mexican cuisine again. She mispronounces chile rellenos both times she tries to say it,  and calls Anaheim chilies “jallapeenos.

Anaheims (the large ones) and jalapenos (the small ones).

In this photo, Anaheims are the large ones, and jalapeños the small ones.

She says “in Mexico, I believe, they use something called Monterey Jack – always reminds me of an outlaw.” [Monterey Jack is not really Mexican.]

Fine-Cut-Monterey-Jack

Outlaw

There’s also an awkward bit of “Spanish” business during the chile rellenos segment. I won’t give a labored description of it, but it’s some nonsense with a caramba and an olé and it doesn’t really come off very naturally. [This whole episode has a rather phoned-in quality, in my view, but since it was Jennifer’s last I’ll let that pass without further comment. – WK]

A little piece of dirt or something falls off Clarissa’s log of goat cheese when she puts it in the bowl.

Cheese with dirt

TRADEMARKS: There is an AGA in the kitchen. Clarissa mixes the goat cheese with her hands.

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2 thoughts on ““Well, I hate to break this rustic idyll . . .” – On Safari

  1. 2 things. The elephant’s name sounded to me like “Chota”, the Hindi word for “small”. I think it’s meant to be a joke for those who speak Hindi. I’m aware that the elephants are African elephants, but there you go. The chances of someone in Great Britain knowing Hindi are much higher than you’d think, especially when it’s for names and the like.

    When Jennifer tells Clarissa “thanks”, she says, “thanks, panks.” Couldn’t tell you what it means, but it’s certainly something I’ve heard come from British people.

    Liked by 1 person

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