Celebrity chef Fanny Cradock was never one to mince her words. She was in fact famous for bossing her partner Johnnie and assistants around on live TV and for telling her viewers to think of a neighbour they’d never liked, while stabbing a duck rather aggressively with two forks – one in each hand.
Her theatrical appearance and manner allowed her to get away with it all. But one day, in 1976, her acid wit went too far and caused her to lose her job at the BBC – to be replaced by the sweet, young Delia Smith.
Ms Cradock had been invited on a TV show to taste and comment on the food prepared by a housewife from Devon, and she must have been in a particularly combative mood that day.
Not only did she upset the poor housewife by criticising her choices quite harshly; but also – or rather, especially – she hurt the national pride by stating that the English had never had a cuisine and that even the good old Yorkshire pudding came from France.
“It’s la gougère bourguignonne!” she said, with the frozen smile of a 1950s American housewife.
I can’t help but wonder what she’d make of the term ‘modern British cuisine’, were she still alive.
During her career as a television cook spanning from the 50s to the 70s, Fanny Cradock had introduced many recipes from France and Italy to a British public in dire need of culinary stimulation.
When watching clips of her shows online, I love hearing her pronounce the names of French wines and dishes with that hilarious sense of grandeur.
During WWII Ms Cradock had managed to throw great dinner parties – in spite of the rationing – by catching and cooking whatever unfortunate wildlife happened to prowl in her garden.
Hadn’t she existed, Fanny Cradock could not have been invented.