Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Gourmet has Galloped

Could it be that dear old Fanny Cradock inadvertently inspired one of the most famous moves in TV cooking history? Fanny began her TV career in 1955 in the U.K., only a few years before the soon-to-be Galloping Gourmet himself, Graham Kerr, was to launch his infamous 'leap' into TV history in New Zealand. "I was told," Graham told me, "that Fanny went to Paratroop training school to learn how to fall and roll in one fluid movement, which she then employed when making an entrance down a sweeping staircase! It might just have been this piece of gossip that got us thinking about jumping chairs as an entrance!" Fanny would've been absolutely thrilled to hear this, and delighted to claim the credit of course!

Fanny Cradock Graham Kerr Galloping Gourmet

Food on TV has changed a lot since those times, and both Fanny and Graham helped in the transformation greatly. "I do miss the classics, but I am pleased at the attempts to 'nourish and delight' now. TV food shows have multiplied to such an extent and the audience has been so fragmented that budgets no longer allow for the time we spent on research, travel and testing. I truly tried to do my best - despite making 195 shows a year - to show how each dish was made, and still bounce a ball on my nose and finish on time - not an easy mix!" The average Fanny series had 10 episodes, and despite being known for her entertaining style, I don't remember any balls on noses! "My wife, Treena, said that I was the most unutterably boring man in the entire world, so I challenged her to produce my show. She demanded the first six minutes and then left the rest to me! The large audience came for a fun evening!" And they got it. "The Food Network credited Treena for having launched cooking as entertainment. I simply did what I was told, more or less!"

Fanny Cradock Graham Kerr Galloping Gourmet

Things were slightly different with Fanny and Johnnie, although it seems they lived fairly similar lives off screen - dedicated to the shows. "I met Treena at school when she was 10 and I was 11, I can remember very little of my life that did not include her. I loved good food and wine, she loved a good laugh and a very well paced show. We lived, ate and slept that show - at the time we ate what I cooked. Since I developed every single dish myself, we wound up eating my experiments! It was fun, and at the same time not the best choice for a healthy diet!" These days it would all no doubt be featured on screen, kind of like a blue-print for Ina and Jeffrey? "I have not had a television connected to the outside world for over 18 years, so quite honestly I have no up-to-date opinion. I do warmly approve of most of Jamie Oliver's activism though..."

Fanny Cradock Graham Kerr Galloping Gourmet

Like Jamie, and of course Fanny too (yes, even on the BBC), sponsorship and product placement was an important aspect of Graham's blossoming TV career. "I hated it from day one in commercial television," Graham tells me, "but it was a fact of life. To cook one needed ingredients and equipment, both of which used to have their brand names blacked out, but were still easily recognised. I cannot remember ever deliberately including anything in order to gain sponsorship, but once a sponsor came on board it was unlikely that I would use a competitors product!" Graham and Treena turned their backs on the lifestyle and fame that they had created however. "We gave the name Galloping Gourmet away, along with all our financial gains back in 1976 when we set off on our journey to recover our love for each other, and for our fellow man whom we had so little time." Graham tells the fascinating story in his book, A Flash of Silver.

Fanny Cradock Graham Kerr Galloping Gourmet

The book is a great read for anyone interested in a genuine story of love, travel, early TV cooking, and the roller-coaster lifestyle that fame and fortune brought, for good and bad. Ever the innovator, Graham remains connected to his audience in a unique and special way. "I have turned a massive u-turn on that far less financially rewarding track, but I have never been so engaged with my readers as I am now on the blog that will explore A Flash of Silver for the next three years! God willing and the creeks don't rise too much I will make it, and hopefully finish well!" The galloping gang of group-thinkers in the Reflective Readers Club hope so too!

Fanny Cradock Graham Kerr Galloping Gourmet

It all sounded great fun while it lasted, allowing Graham to gallop all over the world. Including a trip back to where it all began, to Scotland. There's a great section in the book where Graham recalls running along Princes Street at speed and unfortunately tripping, falling head over heels. All very Trainspotting. Perhaps Graham should've gone with Fanny to that Paratroop training session? "It was a dream come true to visit my home turf, my family comes from Ferniehurst, just south of Edinburgh. I loved every minute of our time there." And how was the food? "It was all well cooked, but without a sense of 'place' that I look for wherever I go!"

Fanny Cradock Graham Kerr Galloping Gourmet

Food was so important to Graham then, and still of course today. "I'm not a vegetarian, like you, but I do aim for at least 7 servings of plant foods every day. As kids we were often told to 'eat up your vegetables, they are good for you!' It's our early attempts at rebellion to kick up a fuss and upset our well-meaning parents. As adults our tastes change and the Brussel Sprouts of our youth can now be a delight! My all-time favourite dish is from Scotland mixed with the land in which I now live. I call it P3 - Pale Pink Porridge!" Graham recommends I make a good bowl of wholegrain old fashioned Oats, adding frozen blueberries, raspberries and blackberries stirred in with some chopped hazelnuts. "It is quite pink and represents a place - Mount Vernon in the Skagit Valley, north of Seattle, 92, 000 acres of rich farmland and an abundance of berries!" A wonderful treat with a wonderful 'sense of place'. Perfect for reflecting on life with less of a gallop and more of a quiet ponder ... "I don't regret a moment of that show, we did it with a whole heart and wanted to believe that we brought some joy and understanding about food." Millions of fans would whole-heartedly agree. "One of my most sincere regrets is that I never met Fanny Cradock though." I think he means it too. Aw, wouldn't it have been sensational to see them leap over a kitchen chair together for a TV special 'Take Kerr with Fanny'!

Fanny Cradock Graham Kerr Galloping Gourmet

6 comments:

  1. Delightful post, I loved The Galloping Gourmet and always felt that the lady he picked to dine with him at the end of each programme was so lucky. Sounds like he's still enjoying life and is as happy as he always appeared to be.

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    1. Thanks, he's utterly charming. I think he is enjoying life still, sadly without Treena, but he's enjoying connecting with people again through his blog... Wonder where all those lucky ladies are now?

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  2. I remember him from his to show in the 80s - he used to turn dishes into healthier versions of themselves. He seems like such a nice guy!

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    1. Aw, I never saw those ones... He is lovely!

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  3. What a nice man! It's good to see he's still enjoying cooking.

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    1. Yes, he still seems like a lot of fun! His book is really interesting, and he was lovely... He seems to be enjoying everything again!

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