Fanny Cradock

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Fanny in her kitchen in the 1950s

Fanny Cradock (February 26 1909 - December 27 1994) born Phyllis Primrose-Peachy, in Leytonstone, London, was a British writer, restaurant critic and television cook. With the set upon, but genial old cove, John "Johnnie" Cradock, whose surname she adopted, she co-wrote one of Britain's first restaurant columns, Bon Viveur, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph newspaper from 1950 to 1955.

Contents

Fanny hits television

In 1955 this led to a TV series, in which Johnnie played her stooge, and which continued until the mid-1970s. She married Johnnie in 1977. Many viewers will remember poor old Johnnie being chased and ferociously tongue-lashed with cries of "Come on Johnnie - hurry up." He however took these matrimonial commands in good humour and retired quietly to the back of the studio to comb his handlebar moustache back into shape and enjoy a quiet snifter.

- & Johnnie & Sarah...

It was not just poor old Johnnie who caught it in the neck - there was also the "beautiful", but hapless assistant Sarah, who would hide terrified at the back of the studio. When ready for the help of her not-to-be trusted sidekick, Fanny issued her commands with a weighty resonance. "So now all we need are the Softened Chocolate Chips!" Poor old Sarah, who has been loitering virtually out of view duly appears to (try and) soften the chocolate chips. When done she leaves stage right and in her haste to get off camera accidentally takes with her a spatula - big mistake Sarah! "NO!" booms Fanny, who needs the said implement and grabs it back, before turning to the camera, smiling. "Sorry about that noise, there."

Assessment of her career

In the publicity material for Julia Darling's play, "Fanny Cradock The Life and Loves of a Kitchen Devil" it says, "Fanny Cradock was an extraordinary woman. She was the first celebrity TV cook. We remember her strange mask-like face on our black and white TV, ordering husband Johnnie about as she strutted between counter and cooker. She was ridiculous, rather glamorous, but frightening too. She introduced a new wave of sophisticated foods, including the prawn cocktail. Remember that apron?"

She is still among the most famous of TV chefs, in part due to her explosive personality, buoffant hair and independent eyelashes. Her recipes were then much more up-to-date than those of the earlier broadcasters. Her popularity crashed, however, when she mercilessly berated the winner of a TV cookery competition for using English food, rather than the French food that she preferred.

Her temperament was wont to get on top of her and on another occassion, an anonymous correspondent to the "Delia Online" message board relates, "Fanny Craddock was, alas, a ghastly snob who had her come-uppance when she humiliated a woman, an audience member, on her live TV show. The woman had expressed a desire to make a chocolate custard pudding (or some such simple dessert from a packet) for the then Prime Minister Edward Heath. Fanny tore into her like a lioness disembowling a zebra. Treated her like scum and then arrogantly demonstrated a pretentious dessert involving (if I remember correctly) meringue. The recipe went hideously wrong under the then hot lights of live TV. Fanny lost her personal popularity and her professional respect in one programme."

Despite her bizarre appearance, she was reassuringly concerned with the budgets of her audience and would often make comments like, "This confectioners' custard only contains 3 egg yolks, so it won't break you." When preparing a goose we get, "Of course, if you can't stretch to butter, then dripping will do." and for those poor housewives getting by on poor quality cakes - Christmas is a time for a real treat, "Prices are so terrible these days, but you have to be allowed ONE piece of decent cake a year."

As her hey day was in the 70's there was (quite rightly) no concession to political correctness. In one episode she recommended one recipe for those, "...lonely, old people who are living alone." She then shortly afterwards spends 5 minutes berating those indequate men who can't carve a Turkey properly. "I'm not such an clot as to support women's lib', but this really does drive me mad," she moans.

Her television programmes have not aged well when looked back on today and both the format and her style look wildly eccentric; not too many cooks would today try and cook in a ball gown and produce a roast chicken dish surrounded by swirls of green dyed potato mash! It was not without reason that one of her obituaries in the UK broadsheets began with the words, "Fanny Cradock was a preposterous character". That, she certainly was.

She was also later criticised for what many saw as her snobbish over-use of French haute cuisine and terminology. Her style was (rightly) parodied by many, including Betty Marsden as Fanny Haddock in Beyond Our Ken and Daphne Whitethigh in Round the Horne. She was perhaps fortunate to have retired before the scathing satire of later shows such as Spitting Image - what that show could have produced with a latex Fanny Cradock would have been worth seeing!

In her early career as a writer she published two science fiction novels. She published over 100 cookbooks and a 96-part magazine cookery course. She later thankfully returned to writing fiction and left the TV kitchens of the UK free of ball gowns and green mash potato.

Cockney Rhyming Slang

As a sure sign of her enduring fame "Fanny Cradock" is now used in rhyming slang for "Haddock".

Books

Novels, as Phyllis Cradock

TV shows

  • "Kitchen Magic" (1955)
  • Fanny's Kitchen
  • Chez Bon Viveur
  • The Cradocks
  • Dinner Party
  • Fanny Cradock Invites
  • Cradock cooks for Christmas

Cookbooks

  • Common Market cookery - France (1973) BBC, ISBN 0563125861
  • Fanny & Johnnie Cradocks' cook hostess book
  • Fanny & Johnnie Cook's Essential Alphabet
  • Fanny & Johnnie Cradock's Freezer Book
  • The Daily Telegraph Cook's Book by Bon Viveur (Johnnie and Fanny Cradock)

Works about Fanny Cradock

  • Doughnuts like Fanny's (play by Julia Darling, 2002) [Later renamed "Fanny Cradock - The Life and Loves of a Kitchen Devil"]
  • Fear of Fanny (play by Brian Fillis, 2002)
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