Sunday, November 28, 2004

1976: Fanny Cradock Comes Unstuck...

1975: "Fanny Cradock Cooks For Christmas" - seasonal fare for the cash-strapped 1970s.

1976: "The Big Time" - Fanny registers absolute disgust at the suggested menu of an amateur cook. Big Time? Big Mistake.
Fanny Cradock was a hugely influential pioneer of TV cookery shows, who began her on-screen career in the 1950s. With monocled husband Johnnie by her side, she taught the nation how to cook sophisticated things, lifting us out of the mood of post war austerity and into a glittering new era of fancy French cuisine.

French cookery was the be-all-and-end-all to Fanny, as it was to many at that time, and La Cradock was proud of having some French ancestry a little way back. Fanny seemed to believe that French and English were not simply different nationalities, but different races - particularly when it came to culinary skills!

She was posh and bossy, could wear wonderful finery whilst cooking without getting covered in flour, and was one of the most enjoyable TV personalities I have ever clapped eyes on. To watch Fanny and Johnnie, she the Iron Lady, he the silly dodderer, was to watch a wonderful double act. The entertainment value went way beyond the cooking.

Perhaps blue eggs do seem a bit weird now, but hey, this was the rock n’ rollin’ 50s and the free lovin’ 60s! Things were different!

By the time the 1970s had arrived, Fanny had been HUGE for years, and it seemed that she would go on forever. I loved watching her as a little kid, although when I was a tiny tot I had found her a little creepy. I think this was because her voice sounded quite male, and she wore loads of make-up.

In 1975, Fanny Cradock Cooks For Christmas showed that our culinary heroine had her finger firmly on the pulse of current economic trends, as she prepared meals like mincemeat pancakes for Christmas jollies and mentioned many times the appalling economic climate. With prices soaring, I recall my mother being grateful for Fanny’s cost-cutting approach back then.

Then, in 1976, Fanny disgraced herself. She poured scorn on a menu presented by an amateur cook on the BBC TV show The Big Time. So biting and condescending was Fanny that her career was permanently damaged. Neither the viewing public nor the BBC admired her approach, and Fanny rarely appeared on television again. In the 1980s, she could be glimpsed at times on chat shows and breakfast TV publicising various books she was writing, as spirited as ever, but her career as a TV cook was over.

Fanny Cradock died in 1994, and although she wasn’t the most lovable of TV personalities, she was certainly a trailblazer for TV cooks.

And enormously entertaining to watch.

Every year, just before Christmas, my wife and I settle down to watch Fanny Cradock Cooks For Christmas. It stirs memories of “making do” at Christmas in the 1970s, and Fanny never fails to delight us. When watching the shows, it is always hard to believe that the vibrant, colourful personality on screen is no more.

Some 1960s Fanny material here .

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