fanny craddock love

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  • 1909-1994: an English television cook and kindred spirit of Martha Stewart.

    In 1955, Fanny recorded a pilot for a BBC television series. It was a winning format and each series came with a printed booklet that gave a detailed account of each recipe Fanny demonstrated. In later years, she would simply say, "You'll find that recipe in the booklet so I won't show you now". Craddock's TV programmes were popular in the late 1950s. Fanny advocated bringing Escoffier-standard food into the British home and gave every recipe a French name. Her food looked extravagant but was generally cost effective and Fanny seemed to care for her audience. Catchphrases were; "This won't break you", "This is perfectly economical", "This won't stretch your purse". She insisted that "Everyone (was) entitled to a piece of really good cake at least once a year".

    As time went on, her food became outdated. Her love of the piping bag and vegetable dyes meant her television show began to border on farce. As she got older, she applied more and more make-up and wore vast chiffon ballgowns on screen. Her apronless cry, both on screen and on stage, was that "cooking is a cleanly art, not a grubby chore". Using language that would never have found its way into her Bon Viveur columns, she spat: "Only a slut gets in a mess in the kitchen."

    By this stage, when Fanny spoke, the world listened. She campaigned against artificial flavourings and fertilisers - the Craddock tomatoes were fed on tea and pee dubbed "Madam's Tonic" - and in 1974 she sent the Ayr fishing fleet into panic after revealing that monkfish was being widely used in scampi as a cheaper alternative to prawns. She had firm views, too, on what viewers and readers should do at Christmas. In Fanny's book, there was no beginning or end to the preparations: Christmas puddings should be prepared a year in advance, although a batch Fanny made for Harrods in the early Sixties had to be returned when they went mouldy. Every month had its tasks: pickling walnuts, preserving angelica, making potpourri. Her fervour for DIY was also reflected in her accent on wreaths, flamboyant table designs and home-made decorations - an enterprise that she claimed could keep children "absorbed throughout the long winter evenings".

    In 1976, Devon housewife Gwen Troake won a competition called "Cook of the Realm", the prize being to organise a banquet to be attended by Edward Heath, Earl Mountbatten of Burma and other VIPs. The BBC filmed the result as part of a series called The Big Time, and asked Fanny Craddock (then a tax exile in Ireland and aged 66) to act as one of a number of experts giving Troake advice on her menu. The result brought the end of Fanny Craddock's TV career. Mrs Troake went through her menu of seafood cocktail, duckling with bramble sauce and coffee cream dessert. Fanny told Troake that her menu was too rich, and while accepting that the dessert was delicious, insisted it was not suitable, declaring: "You're among professionals now". Fanny grimaced, acted as if on the verge of retching, and claimed not to know what a bramble was. She suggested that Troake use a small pastry boat filled with cream and covered with spun sugar. It was completed by an orange slice and a cherry through a cocktail stick, giving the dish the look of a small boat, which Fanny thought was suitable for the naval guests.

    In the event, the pudding was a disaster and couldn't be served properly. Robert Morley had also been consulted on the menu and said he felt Troake's original coffee pudding was perfect. When the pudding failed to impress, the public were annoyed that Craddock had seemingly ruined a potential success for the Devon housewife. Coupled with the rude manner in which Fanny had spoken to Troake, the public demanded her shows be axed from the BBC. Fanny wrote an apology to Troake but the BBC terminated her contract two weeks after the programme. She never presented a cookery programme again .

    May 4, 2008