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British Expat Newsletter:
22 November 2006

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: One Fat Lady
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

Cooks and chefs always seem to be in the news these days. We’ve had Jamie Oliver campaigning to bring about an improvement in school dinners. Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant openings continue to make the papers, as do his reality TV shows – peppered, of course, with his famously brutal management style and expletives. And my personal bugbear, Delia, can guarantee massive sales of a food item or kitchen utensil just by using it on one of her shows (remember how suddenly everyone was using sun-dried tomatoes?), although these days she’s almost as famous for her antics at Norwich City FC.

One of my favourites, though, is about as far removed from this type of celebrity chef as you could imagine. Healthy eating’s anathema to her – she uses prodigious amounts of lard and butter in her recipes, and she admits to a pathological hatred of carrots because her father used to feed them to her with slugs on them. She’s not a woman of the people – her father was surgeon to the Royal Family, and her mother was an Australian heiress. Where Gordon Ramsay started his career as a footballer before reinventing himself, she initially trained as a barrister before she turned to her career in food. She’s not the director of a football club, but she’s got enough first names for an entire football team. Step forward, Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson Wright!

What’s so great about her? It’s not the recipes as such. Many of are a bit too eccentric to ever be part of most households’ menus. And I wouldn’t hold her up as a paragon of kitchen virtue either – I used to wince every time I saw her and her partner in “Two Fat Ladies”, Jennifer Paterson, put their hands into a mixing bowl because I knew they’d still be wearing all their rings!

I think her blunt, no-nonsense attitude has a lot to do with it. (For those of you who’ve never seen her, think Peggy Mount in all her dragon lady roles.) Where all the other TV chefs are doing their best to set trends or at least go along with them, she cheerfully bucks them. Calorie-counting and vitamin RDAs are for others to worry about; if it tastes good and looks good, that’s what counts for her – although presentation takes a back seat to taste, as it should. And she’s got no truck with PC; it’s no surprise to find that she’s an active campaigner for the Countryside Alliance.

But most of all, you get a feeling with Clarissa Dickson Wright that this is someone who’s lived their life to the full. In spite of the privileged background (her BBC profile describes the Dickson Wright household as one “where eating caviar and pheasant shooting were the norm and pigeons were flown in from Cairo for supper”) she’s not always had it easy. Although she won a place at Oxford, her father (who was a violent alcoholic) refused to support her unless she studied medicine; so she went to University College, London instead and studied law. She became an alcoholic for 12 years after her mother’s death and has been bankrupted twice. So she’s been through the mill. But she’s also thrown herself energetically into whatever she’s done. She was the youngest ever woman called to the Bar, at just 21 years old. Her keen interest in food writing (she worked for several years at the “Books For Cooks” bookshop in London before starting her own shop in Edinburgh) led her to be described as “the world’s leading authority on cookery books”. Her anthology “Food” is superb reading. And she continues to make some of the most marvellously eccentric TV programmes around, even after Jennifer Paterson’s death.

And now, among her many other activities, she’s a motivational speaker. A very good one, I don’t doubt – but I can’t help thinking of the stereotypical girls’ boarding school games mistress: “Get some BALL, you bunch of soft nellies!”…

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

Sadly, the BBC no longer has a web page for the Two Fat Ladies, but you can still read about the programme on Wikipedia:
Wikipedia: Two Fat Ladies

The Waitrose Food Illustrated website has an excellent article about Clarissa Dickson Wright by one of her friends, Matthew Fort:
Waitrose Food Illustrated: Larger Than Life

A quick Google search for “lard is good for you” turned up an interesting article with that title on Travelerstales.com, written by a US volunteer teacher about her time in Costa Rica:
travelerstales.com: Lard is Good For You

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • parody song roll out the barrel
  • the barbie ex pat forum
  • hot brothel
  • lanzarote big cock
  • amos zongo
  • a catalan company -east -mercenary -byzantine
  • lam cadeo
  • its a sin to be this tropical animal
  • zeed pic post
  • as a headless horseman

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“Bankruptcy is like losing your virginity. It doesn’t hurt the next time.”

– Clarissa Dickson Wright (1947- )

Joke

How to tell when foodstuffs should be discarded

The Gag Test

Anything that makes you gag is off, except for leftovers from what you cooked for yourself last night.

Eggs

When something starts pecking its way out of the shell, the egg is probably past its prime.

Dairy Products

Milk is off when it looks like yoghurt. Yoghurt is off when it starts to look like cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is off when it starts to look like ordinary cheese. Ordinary cheese is nothing but off milk anyway and can’t get any more off than it already is.

Mayonnaise

If it makes you violently ill after you eat it, mayonnaise is off.

Frozen Foods

Frozen foods that have become an integral part of the defrosting cycle in your freezer compartment will probably be off – or wrecked, anyway – by the time you pry them out with a kitchen knife.

Meat

If opening the refrigerator door causes stray animals from a half-mile radius to congregate outside your kitchen door, the meat is off.

Lettuce

Lettuce is off when you can’t get it off the bottom of the salad drawer without Flash.

Tinned Food

Any tinned food that has become the shape or size of a football should be disposed of. Carefully.

Carrots

A carrot that you can tie in a clove hitch is not fresh.

Wine

It should not taste like salad dressing.

Potatoes

Fresh potatoes do not have roots, branches or dense leafy undergrowth.

Dips

If you can take it out of its container and bounce it on the floor, it has gone bad.

General Rule of Thumb:

Most food cannot be kept longer than the average life span of a hamster. Keep a hamster in your refrigerator to gauge this.

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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