This is my last offering in the series of Retro Cooks that I have featured in Flavour Magazine.
They say always save the best until last, so I have.
Here she is , my personal favourite, Clarissa Dickson Wright.
RETRO COOKS – CLARISSA DICKSON WRIGHT.
We end our series on retro cooks with a true Titan of food – Clarissa Dickson Wright.
Her arrival on our TV screens in 1994 gave the foodie world a real jolt. Along with fellow Fat Lady, Jennifer Patterson, they resembled a comedy act. She is coincidentally the cousin of the comedian Alexander Armstrong.
Their repartee during the shows raised many a smile whilst they regaled us with a myriad of culinary anecdotes, whilst the Health and Safety Commission threw their hands in horror at Jennifer’s long painted nails clawing into the food they were preparing. Such was their controversial approach, they were once described as “Being able to spread butter on bread and make it look like pornography” In fact, the fashionable expression “food porn” was no doubt spawned from that very quote. The food was great, the vintage motorbike and side car became their hallmark, and the rest as they say is history.
It is hard to write anything about this great lady without some reference to her earlier life. She had a troubled childhood, a violent father and she succumbed to alcoholism, which ate into many years of her life. Her recent autobiography Spilling The Beans is a poignant account of these darker times.
She also charts her path to fame through the Fat Ladies series, and gives the tale a Happy Ever After feel.
Probably one of the most knowledgeable person in the UK on the subject of food, she has become almost a living food encyclopaedia, as recently seen on the Channel Four series The Big Food Quiz. She has been commissioned by Random House Books to produce a major work entitled The History Of English Food which is to be published in 2011.
She adeptly presented a programme on the oldest British cookery book, The Forme of Cury, written during the reign of Richard the second, where she ably demonstrated that in the foodiesphere, there is nothing new under the sun. She prepared goose with fruit, and stewed pars in red wine using a fully restored mediaeval kitchen for the programme, illustrating she is not one to shy away from a challenge.
She has been an overt champion of the Countryside Alliance, fully supporting hunting and its associated activities, whilst lucidly putting forward the pro hunting argument.
She is a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers, one of very few female members, an honour she holds with the Princess Royal. She, along with her friend Sir Johnny Scott drove a flock of sheep over one of London’s bridges, exercising her ancient right to do so as a member.
Indeed she has appeared with Sir Johnny in the BBC series Clarissa and the Countryman, where she yet again turned out some stunning dishes prepared with Mother Nature’s bounty, very often for her appreciative hosts.
Her cooking style has a very traditional approach to her cooking, very often producing regional specialities, or dishes with an honourable history to them. Her cookery works reflect this. Hers is not the flashy, stir frying televisual celebrity cooking – she has a more austere, Aga simmering oven approach to food, giving it a lasting quality and provenance.
Fast food she is not, slow food she most unquestioningly is.
Whilst sadly some our cooks in this series are no longer with us, Clarissa remains solidly and boldly
elbowing her determined way through the sea of controversy in the food industry, never fearing to say her peace and having little regard for tender egos and the utmost indifference towards charlatans Good on her. Long may she continue!