Fanny Cradock - famous English eccentric
When I was a child, her name was so well known. Fanny Cradock was best known for being a television cook but she was also an amazingly eccentric and interesting woman with a fascinating history.
For the few people who remember her, you'll also remember her 'husband' Johnnie who appeared on the TV shows with her.
Another reason she is still remembered today is because of a certain quote about doughnuts ... more of which later!
Her cooking fame was largely in the 1950s and 1960s and she was already in her forties with a checkered history when her television career began.
By this time she was a bigamist and had been living with Johnnie Cradock - a married man - for many years.There were two major trademarks of her show and Johnnie was the first. He appeared as her rather bumbling and hen-pecked assistant and looked very much like the army major he was, particularly because of the monocle he wore.
And the other trademark was what she herself wore - she rarely used an apron and would cook wearing ballgowns, extravagant jewelry and even fur coats. The two would also guzzle wine during the show, Johnnie in particular.
She had her own curious style, with arched eyebrows, false eyelashes and painted lips. She retained this look, even as an old lady. My own gran also kept the same look that was probably popular in wartime and looking at the photographs on this page reminds me of my own grandmother! They's been born within ten years of each other and there must have been many more women from that era who favored the the same style that was popular when they were younger.
Fanny & Johnnie CradockClick thumbnail to view full-size
One of her eccentricities was to never let the fact that she was already married prevent her from doing so again.
- She was first married when she was just seventeen - although she lied and she said she was 21. Her husband was an RAF pilot. They had only been married for about three months when he was involved in a plane crash. He was killed, leaving her pregnant with her first child.
- The following year, she became pregnant again and married the father of the child. This marriage soon broke up and she was unable to divorce her husband as he had become a Catholic and therefore divorce was against the teaching in the Church.
- It wasn't long before she 'married' again. This time, her new 'husband' was a racing driver. This relationship was the shortest, lasting only eight weeks.
- Johnnie Cradock now entered the scene. At last she had found the man she wanted to spend time with but he was married with children. This didn't stop her however - the couple started to live together and she changed her name legally to his. After many years, in 1977, they read an obituary saying that her former husband had died so they were married. This would have been fine except the obituary was actually for another man of the same name. Fanny was a bigamist again. Incidentally, on the marriage certificate she has put her age as 55. She was in fact 68 years old.
If you're reading this and you're not English, you may not realize what 'fanny' means in English slang. In American slang it is of course, the derriere.
In English slang, it means something that's ... um ... quite close by, anatomically speaking. Let's say this, men in America have fannies. In England only females do. (I think I explained that rather well and I hope you get the picture!)
There is a division in the ranks when it comes to whether or not this story is truth or legend. However, the BBC website, normally a good source for the truth, claims that it did.
Fanny and Johnnie were cooking doughnuts on their show. At the end of the program, the announcer introducing the next show said (I'm paraphrasing) to the audience "If you're making these at home, I hope your doughnuts turn out like Fanny's.
"Of course, you can't see a TV announcer's apostrophes, so viewers heard that the doughnuts should be like 'fannies' - an intimate part of the female anatomy.Because this was on live TV, there is no record of this on film - but if you know otherwise, do let me know!
- Her real name was Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey. It's likely that 'Fanny' was a nickname when she was a child.
- Her mother was an actress called Bijou. Her father was a writer who loved to gamble and between them, they ran up tremendous debt and had to keep moving around the country from place to place to avoid their creditors.
- Part of her initial popularity was because England still had food rationing in place until 1954. Because of food shortages during the war, people needed to be reminded - or taught - how to cook the foods that were now available.
- She is credited with the invention of the prawn cocktail.
- When asked how she had gained such knowledge about cooking, she would explain that she had been a chef in a previous life.
- Reputedly, she would fertilize the vegetables that grew in the Cradock's garden with her own pee.
- The presentation of her food could often be somewhat bizarre. Sometimes her garnishes made her foods look erotic - intentionally? I don't know but imagine a pineapple ring placed on a plate. Then a banana inserted upright into the hole with a little bit of glace cherry on top. OK, she called them Christmas Candles...
- She was expelled from her school when she was fifteen years old - for holding seances and attempting to summon ghosts and spirits.
- Her father wrote dozens of crime novels using the pen name of Mark Cross.
- It was her bluntness that got her fired from her television job. An amateur cook had won a TV competition to create a meal for a celebrity dinner party. Fanny was on live TV with the woman and being typically scathing about her menu. This was in the same way that she was accustomed to speaking to Johnnie but the television company reckoned that she had gone too far with a member of the public and Fanny's TV show was cancelled.
Today's British celebrity chefs
Fanny Cradock was one of the earliest English television celebrity chefs. Today there are many British chefs who are equally eccentric or quirky! But try their recipes....Below are my favorite chefs - Gordon Ramsay is probably the most eccentric. No wait, Marco Pierre White is ... or should it be Nigella???
Love him or hate him?
Fanny Cradock bargains on eBay
The information below is automatically updated. If there are no products showing, or an error is returned, do check back as Fanny (and her doughnuts) crops up quite regularly.
The TV appearance that ended her career
TV bosses thought that Fanny had gone too far when she was so scathing about the cooking of a member of the public. Actually, I think she was right. Imagine this meal - start with a creamy seafood cocktail, follow this with duck roasted with a jam (jelly) sauce and then a heavy coffee pudding to finish it off. It sounds dreadful to me.Even if you don't want to watch the entire video (and it's SO funny) do see Fanny's face at 4.43 - hilarious.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson