Rising to fame in shows like Kitchen Magic in the 1950s, TV cooks Fanny and Johnnie Cradock reigned supreme in the 1960s. Fanny was the most formidable woman to ever not don an apron (she didn’t need one) and commented: “I’m no Women’s Libber, I wouldn’t be such a clot!” She didn’t need to be a Women’s Libber. Fanny ate adversaries, male or female, for breakfast!
To watch Fanny and monocled husband Johnnie was to watch a great double act. He played the silly dodderer, she the domineering doyen of the kitchen, and they were compulsive viewing.
Fanny's food was exciting - including such bizarre offerings as blue eggs, and she helped dissolve the mood of post war austerity in the 50s with her lovely (often) French fare. Like many cooks of the time, Fanny believed that French cuisine was it.
But she also dealt with other things. The earliest reference I have yet found to prawn cocktail was in a 1962 episode of Coronation Street, when posh Annie Walker mentioned it. In 1967, Fanny Cradock wrote:
One of the most sordid little offerings is the ubiquitous Prawn Cocktail with a good old ground padding of lettuce cut with a knife and darkening at the edges, a tired prawn drooping disconsolately over the edge of the glass like a debutante at the end of her first ball and its opposite number - a piece of lemon tasting of the knife - clutching the opposite side of the rim like a seasick passenger against a taffrail during a rough Channel crossing. This kind of presentation almost certainly confirms that the mayonnaise will be that bottled stuff, further sharpened by bottled tomato sauce…
Fanny proceeded to give her own super-dupah Prawn Cocktail recipe. Little old me, being lower working class, did not even glimpse a Prawn Cocktail until the 1980s. And then it was the bog standard version - complete with bottled tomato sauce.
And I loved it - wolfed it down. Philistine!
Fanny marched through the 1960s, making numerous television series and writing several books. She entered the 70s as she had entered the 60s - as TV Cook Supreme. But then she came unstuck...