Monday, 12 September 2011

Fanny Cradock

Sorry if you opened this blog thinking Fabulous Fanny was about something else entirely. If its ladies bottoms you are after-carry on surfing.The fabulous Fanny the blog title refers to is Fanny Cradock, cook extraordinaire, wearer of garish blue eye shadow and the woman with the thinnest plucked eyebrows since Bette Davies.
 I first heard of Fanny Cradock when BBC4 started playing reruns of her "Fanny Cradock cooks for Christmas" show a few years ago. As I watched her, resplendent in pink chiffon stabbing a goose violently with a fork telling viewers in her plumy tones to "imagine the goose is someone you don't like but are too well bred to do anything about " I was fascinated.
The fantastic Fanny Cradock
Fanny Cradock was probably the first chef to become a TV personality. Her creative french inspired cooking (she said her "god" was Georges Auguste Escoffier) was considered very daring and exotic following the post war drabness which rationing had created. Her attention to detail with food presentation turned simple dinner parties into works of art. She famously dyed mashed potato green and made brandy butter towers in the shape of Christmas trees to accompany her mushroom stuffed turkey. 

Her own appearance was also fairly splendid. Whilst she prided herself on being frugal claiming her purse would "never stretch to ham, gammon would have to suffice" her dresses were by Hartnell, Dior and Balenciaga. She also never wore an apron claiming " cooking is a cleanly art, not a grubby chore"
Fanny displaying a typically elaborate looking dish
The image she portrayed with her long suffering husband Johnny was of a kooky upper class lady. With her condescending slightly intimidating manner and constant stream of tips regarding etiquette which she handed out whist she prepared her dishes made her appear one step from Royalty. The reality was that she had at times in her life been quite destitute,had been married three times (the third time bigamously) and had worked as a cleaner and sold items door to door. Her big break came when she began writing for various publications including The Telegraph when her and Johnny became restaurant critics for a column called “Bon Viveur”
Fanny and the famously henpecked Johnny
Fanny started cooking on TV in 1955 and continued for over twenty years. Her recipes were elaborate and often covered in butter and brandy. Some of her inventions were quite eccentric including her "Green Cheese Ice Cream" and  being from the generation who had survived rationing she had a particular fondness for offal, one highlight being veal brains cooked with cream.Her carear effectively ended in 1976 when she was asked to appear on the program "The big time" to comment on an item called Cook of the realm. A housewife called  Gwen Troafe had won a competition to create a menu for Edward Heath and Lord Mountbattenmenu and horrified viewers watched as Fanny lambasted poor Gwen's menu, even pulling  a face as if she was being sick when Gwen described her meal of duck with bramble jelly. The general consensus was that she had been far too high handed and she was never booked to cook on television again.The haughty air and rudeness which had made her such a tour de force was her undoing.

She is remembered with if not fondness, then respect by many well known cooks. Delia Smith claims Fanny was the reason she started cooking and Jamie Oliver has also cited her as an influence.I for one think with her slightly barmy "Whatever happened to baby Jane" appearance she is a total legend. Every Christmas she apparently always wore a dress made from a length of velvet Norman Hartnell had used to cover the queens coronation gown and it wasn't unheard of her to do a cooking demonstration in a tiara.It should be noted that she was also one of the first public figures to campaign against fertilisers and artificial flavourings in food. Vive Le Fanny


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  1. Betty, I love Fanny and that cushion! Am following you via GFC and have tweeted your post as @firsttimemum1
    My cooking inspiration is my Nan...even though she's in her 70s, she still cooks a delicious Christmas dinner for 20 of us every year...yes, 20! The pleasure she gets from feeding her family is infectious. It's a tradition I want to keep going.

  2. Hahahah! I love this post! So great. Xo, Rae

  3. What a woman....... always felt sorry for Johnny.

  4. I love a bit of Fanny

  5. Fanny is the best, I love OTT chefs. Did you see the 2006 BBC drama "Fear Of Fanny"? Amazing, look it up!

  6. Thanks for all the lovely comments. Glad ou all love Mrs Cradock as much as I do. I aso always felt a bit sorry for Johnny Tallulah May and yes savage Pink I did see Fear of Fanny. Loved it-quite sad at times as well

  7. What a great post - I often cook in a tiara myself! Love the cushion, you are one clever lady x

  8. I want that cushion!! It's fabulous!! And what a great blog! My inspirations for cooking are far reaching, and stem from my Greek roots and the wonderful food my Greek grandmother used to make for us when she was alive, to my absolute favourite TV chefs - The Hairy Bikers! I love trying out new recipes - but have a real love of curries! Once again, love that cushion!! x

  9. My partner calls me Fanny when I am being bossy - which is lots of the time!! So that cushion would go down a treat on our sofa! I would say that my Mum is my cooking inspiration, but not in the way you think - it's because she ONLY cooks very very traditional meat and two veg that as soon as I was able to I was in the kitchen making my own concoctions with varying degrees of success... I used to badger them into eating 'exotic' foods such as (gasp) stir fries and (oh!) curries but the resistance I was met with was just not worth it.... so as you can see, she is my anti inspiration haha! But of course I love her very much and the traditional stuff she does she does very well of course.

  10. Loving all the comments and stories of where you get cooking inspiration from-thanks everyone and good luck in teh draw on Friday x

  11. Can I join the the giveaway purlease?! Will spread the word re your blog on Facebook in a mo. I am on Facebook at Jemima Bonjovi (possibly the world's worst pseudonym).
    My grandfather (AKA Bampy) who died suddenly last November - leaving me utterly heartbroken - is my inspiration when it comes to cooking.
    As a little girl, he used to show me how to make rock cakes, and victoria sandwiches.
    He also taught me to forage for berries and make delish desserts.
    Every time I see a rick cake, I think of Bampy and can still smell the baking in his kitchen.
    Gem x x

  12. That beautiful cushion would look fabulous in The Daisy Studio where Fanny would feel very much at home amongst the baking paraphernalia. Sadly, I am old enough to remember watching the original Fanny and Johnny TV programmes and loved them - in fact I think my love of baking started all those many years ago. Love this post, love all your posts, you inspire me and you make me smile, thank you!


  13. Hiya Betty,

    Love your blog- always something perfect and feminine on there. Please enter me for the cushion comp!

    Much love


  14. Thanks for thecomments and stories Gem, Alson and Belle. Good luck in the competition xx

  15. Hello! I would like to be entered for the cushion comp please :) My sister would LOVE it as she is a big Ms Craddock fan (note how I chose my words carefully there!). I am a HUGE cake fan, this was inspired by my late Grandma who used to work in a bakery before she retired, and always brought round some delicious home made treat on the weekend. I still miss her delicious cakes x

  16. The winner of this weeks competition (chosen by random number generator) is Alison Goddard. Alison please send me your address to and I will send out your fabulous Fanny cushion.
    Bad luck to those who didnt win. There will be another lovely giveaway next week and you can always visit if you still want a Fabulous Fanny cushion. I only have a few left though so be quick x


  17. I Love this blog!! You have inspired me - especially with the whole cake stand thing, kind of think people may be getting those this year! I get to use a drill, and people get pretty things, its win win really!! What I wanted to know though was where do you find your fabulous dresses? The shop near me thinks that a size 14 is x large, and I dread to think what that would make me!!! Please help Betty!!

  18. Hi Yasmin
    Thanks so much for the lovely comment. Glad Ive inspired you.I am planning to blog about how great the 50's look is for everyone regardless of shape or sized but in the meantime here are the links to a couple of ebay stores which I like and order from


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