Monday, August 17, 2009

Fanny Cradock

With the unexciting Julie/Julia film still hanging around in a corner of my brain, I suddenly remembered Fanny Cradock, a British television cook popular in the 50's and 60's, and still hanging on until the mid 70's. Fanny Craddock was really the antithesis of Elizabeth David. Dressed to the nines for her cooking performances (think evening dress & tiara) & wearing vast amounts of make-up (a cross between Elizabeth I & a drag queen), Cradock was a brash, publicity mad, vaudevillean creature. Both ED & Cradock could be elitist and severe, but ED tended to be understated and sparely stylish in her approach to food, whereas Cradock had a showy, snobbish, social climber's meanness. Her food mirrored her own sartorial style - mind trippingly gaudy "French" food helped along with lots of cream and food colouring. Fanny was the star of every performance, but she worked with a retinue of helpers, notably her partner Johnny, a monocled fallguy, and also a succession of mute & rather timid looking kitchen helpers to whom she was appallingly rude. British audiences lapped her up, and though her food really looks HORRIBLE today (I was too young to have any thoughts about it at the time) she probably did contribute to changing tastes & habits in those grim post-war years. My mother found her very entertaining, though I can't remember any Fanny style French recipes in our resolutely English kitchen. Except perhaps a boeuf bourguignon-ish dish (very good)that sometimes appeared on special occasions. Did Fanny have some influence here? We also had a Fanny Cradock's Christmas book in the house, but none of the recipes ever made it onto our kitchen table. Really she was an early TV celebrity, a bit of a Dame Edna prototype. She's even become quite trendy in recent times, with Gordon Ramsay & Amy Winehouse paying tribute. Youtube has a treasure trove of Fanny videos, where you can catch a glimpse of her schtick, & her dyed blue hard boiled eggs decorated with anchovy and piped mayonnaise. Fanny Cradock Cooks For Christmas - Christmas Bird Part 1 is especially weird. But the most excruciatingly embarassing viewing experience, Fanny-wise, may be the one that finished off her BBC cooking career. Here she is, at around 70 or so, her nastiness so pronounced as she lambasts a sweet amateur cook, that it brought about an onslaught of protest letters from outraged British housewives. That was the end of the show.