Monday, 12 February 2018

Are Friends Electric?

Fanny Cradock had a chequered career off screen, as well as a chequered life. One of her many and varied careers was as a food demonstrator, convincing the housewives of Britain, at Ideal Homes Exhibitions and the like, to ditch their old cookers and install a brand spanking shiny new Gas one instead. It had to be Gas. She said she never cooked with anything else, she simply wouldn't trust it. She was of course sponsored by the Gas Board throughout her career, and she remained loyal - even repeating the same line on her final television cooking performance on TV-AM in 1985. Another face appearing on TV-AM in the early days was food demonstrator, retro-lover, Fanny-fan and all-round appliance expert, Jenny Webb. Had their paths ever crossed, I wondered...?

I never met Fanny but saw her on stage a number of times. An absolute enthusiast, entertaining and an exceptional communicator. Fanny and I operated in different worlds – and she was, of course, very much in a league of her own. Throughout my career, my world was not just about cookers, but all domestic electrical appliances. I was involved in developing test specifications in conjunction with the IEC and BSI, lecturing, writing and/or advising and being interviewed by the media and the public. As The Electricity Council's National Home Economist I also advised the home economists of each of the regional Electricity Boards (NORWEB, SEEBOARD etc) before they were privatised in the 1990s. Cookery demonstrations were a part of my early years in the electricity industry, having studied ‘domestic science as it used to be called...

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

What was the rivalry like between the gas and electricity appliance people, if any? Do you still cook on electric today?

My home is totally electric as I had the gas disconnected when we moved into the house in 1965 as I felt that if I was in the Industry I should practise what I preached!  The Electricity Council employed one of Fanny's biggest rivals, Marguerite Patten to represent the use of electricity for cooking. I also wrote a recipe book with Marguerite, where she advised on conventional cookers and I wrote the microwave recipes.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Fanny published over 100 books, including over 45 cookbooks, many of which covered ‘new’ things such as Cooking with Foil or perhaps using Tinned Goods - but never Microwaves - her last cookbooks in 1985 would’ve been her only chance I guess. Perhaps she was waiting for the Gas Microwave to be invented! What do you think about the current or recent ‘trend’ for Microwave cooking - Microwave Mug cakes and things like that?

In 1985 only 14% of homes had a microwave. As I understood the technology and construction, plus with my background I was able to educate the public through my books and magazine pages. Initially I read and tested recipes from American cookbooks to familiarise myself and then developed recipes for the British needs. New developments are always interesting and exciting and younger people can use their own knowledge to meet the needs of today.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Things spread so quickly on Social Media these days - you have a great presence on Social Media - I love your Twitter and YouTube videos. Fanny too was a great communicator, but obviously social media wasn’t around in her time. I think she’d be ALL over it though… How do you find it? Do you think it’s helping to bring retro back?

What a shame Fanny isn’t around with her own YouTube channel today - she was a total one-off. But I must confess, I was initially hesitant about putting my TV back catalogue on YouTube, yet I’m now so delighted I did. However the success of my retro channel has amazed me – not just in the UK but also the USA, Australia and Europe! I never imagined that I’d end up back in front of a camera either! But the success of all my old clips, sparked my TASTES OF THE 70s series being filmed especially for YouTube. It was actually all shot in just one-day involving a lot of hard team work. It was a lot of fun too – with me running up and down stairs changing my genuine 1970s frocks, whilst trying to retrieve the clip on microphone from goodness knows where... I can now exclusively reveal to you that there are some out-takes left over from filming – dare I put my blunders on YouTube?!

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Of course - I'd say you must! Now I have a confession Jenny, please don't scold me the way Fanny might've... I’d normally cook up one of my guest interviewees recipes to include on the blog, but, erm, although I have your books, I don’t, gasp, have a microwave! Do you have a favourite retro recipe that I could make?

Choosing a favourite recipe is difficult but like most, Prawn Cocktail is one of my favourites as you can see on YouTube. And here's a retro recipe for you - easy to make and a versatile addition to many a mealtime. Parsnip Balls. Simply mash cooked parsnips, add some melted butter, milk, seasoning and a beaten egg. Form into balls and then roll in more beaten egg, breadcrumb and fry. Delicious.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

7 comments:

  1. So good to hear more about Jenny. I learned so much about microwave cooking from her in the 1980s and 90s. Parsnip balls sound awesome, you’ve really done them justice.

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    1. Yes, Jenny is really very interesting! She did a marvellous job at promoting Microwaves and I love the way she is still using Social media to such great effect! Mmm, the parsnip balls are lovely!

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  2. What a fascinating blog post. I can even remember the tv adverts for cooking with gas, or electricity and the jingles that went with them. Great fun to have a look down memory lane. I’m not a fan of the microwave, although I do melt chocolate in it for recipes! Until recently we were all ‘leccy but after the blamange kitchen make over I now have a gas hob. Love it, although I’ve burned myself a few times. Those parsnip balls look fabulous, although I’m not sure what I’d serve them with. Sausages??

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    1. Well, as you know I don't even have a microwave! I think the Parsnip Balls would be lovely with a Sunday Roast, particularly with cabbage and gravy - so yes, sausages would work well! Maybe a Toad in the Hole!

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  3. Oooh, love a good prawn cocktail. And most things are improved by being crumbed and fried.

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    1. Yes, retrotastic! Those Parsnip Balls are smashing!

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