Welcome back! After the unqualified success that was pointing a camera at Giles and Sue as they ate stuff, the BBC snapped them up for twelve more episodes chronicling a spotty and hilarious history of food. This week, it’s Wartime, as Sue and Giles go back to the home front and make do and mend, do their best to entertain GIs, and only occasionally inform people nearby what’s going on.
Note: The comparatively dull pilot got away with a normal amount of screencaps. That is…not the case here.
Era: Wartime (the 1940s)
Chef Grade: Allegra McEvedy, A++ cheffing
Best Guest: The American GIs who appear with their manners booklet in hand and a can of pineapple in their bag, and are amazing sports through a truly surreal teatime.
Best Food Moment: Sue eating a lamb chop inside a cupboard. We’ll get there.
Worst Food Moment: Sue eating unseasoned, watery nettle-and-snail stew…
Equality Now!: …while Giles has a Churchill feast underground.
Worst Thing Giles Says: Pretty sure everything he says in the Churchill bunker is dudebro nonsense, but he also draws a non-Sue naked woman to lie down next to in the Tube, and I think that takes the cake this week!
Best Sue Thing: I realized while recapping how hard these are going to be. She makes a lot of faces. Either the snails she names, or her GI makeup routine, I suppose.
Moment Giles is Most in Love with Sue: A quiet moment when she says something mildly fond and he totally loses his ability to even; this is no small feat in an episode that also features him licking a gravy stocking off her leg.
Most Random Moment: If you think the producers are not punishing Giles, you have not seen him take flights of stairs at night so he can sit on a roof in the dark and eat Spam.
ASPIC. Actually, I don’t remember any! Hard to make it out of nettles, I guess.
Quote of the Week: Courtesy of an American soldier reading from a 1942 guide to the British – “The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap.”
So, since the pilot, we are already dealing with a major shift in comfort level, which is reflected in the remainder of the series. Here they are at the doctor this week:
And now, to the Forties!
We begin with sensible clothing, which Sue calls “utilitarian” in VO and “horrid” when trying to get her hair inside a scarf.. Giles gets a suit. He’s very caring about it all.
“You look like my grandmother on cleaning day!” he says, after he hugs her for a long time and says he was supposed to be meeting his wife in this room, what happened, ha ha, hi Sue hiiiii!
Allegra McEvedy introduces them to their food and a brief history lesson in ration books and the like prior to breakfast. Fresh fruit and veg were unrationed. Everything else was on lockdown.
This is one person’s week of meat and fat ration; they also get one egg each per week.
Which is why she’s cooking them tinned eggs here, beside posters for Potato Pete and Doctor Carrot, one of many food-as-propaganda things we will be seeing this week!
(Note: Carson the Judgey Butler is very understanding this week, with one exception, so imagine him with a sort of “Attaboy” sympathy to his voice. Granddaddy Carson is glad you’re making veggie pie.)
BREAKFAST: Wheaties (stale toasted bread in milk), tinned egg, national loaf, tea.
Allegra supervises breakfast, which they eat with equanimity and seem to think is perfectly tasty for what it is, though when Giles wants to use margarine on his toast, Sue explains why he can’t, with a handy reminder of what this week entails for them gastronomically: “For the first time in your life – boundaries. Restrictions! Want. Need. NECESSITY.”
Their accompaniment this morning is an old broadcast from the Ministry of Food. “Are you eating wisely?” he asks. Sue manages to make the word “Yes” pitch-perfect. At one point it sounds like it’s over; then it continues. In unison:
Then Giles steals some of her egg, because Giles.
She steals it back. “I burn more calories than you!” he says. “What,” she says, “sitting around in a tank top? How many calories does that burn?” Giles 0, Sue 1 (million).
After breakfast, it’s time to join the Home Guard and do some war work. Giles, setting himself up in a VO booth: “I just hope she doesn’t let me down.”
Cut to montage of Sue being perfect at everything and Giles being unable to catch on at all! Yay! Fun setup, VO! We get some notes about Britain’s worry that Germans would land on home soil dressed as nuns and tram drivers, as Giles and Sue attempt to run and stab things and handle their weapons while laughing too hard to army anything, repeatedly. It ends in hopeless giggling on all sides.
LUNCH: Potato sandwiches, jam sandwiches, tea.
After being awful at army, it’s time to go home! Giles says in VO that while he puts his feet up, Sue is “back where she belongs” in the kitchen. (And see, this is my problem with calling things in VO the worst of the week; clearly there’s a level of irony and self-awareness in a VO, even assuming Giles and Sue wrote them all themselves, which I doubt. That’s why I generally rely on Giles being extemporaneously a poophead for my Worst of the Week, rather than the occasionally-eye-rolly commentary.)
Sue and Allegra have a total blast in the kitchen, singing about potatoes as they make pie, and an awesome move by Allegra when Sue offhandedly disses the pie and Allegra “Nope”s it.
DINNER: Woolton pie, oatmeal sauce, raw cabbage salad, sherry, beer.
Woolton pie is root veggies in a flour and oatmeal pastry, which seems pretty tasty, but does not keep Giles from complaining about meatlessness and suggesting “Lord Coren’s Rat Pie” or the addition of seagull. Sue has a face about it.
Dinner’s interrupted by the Blitz! Sue takes shelter as Giles declares “No Hun’s going to chase me from my dinner,” trying not to look into the camera and end with, “Naaailed it!”
The producers, having had enough of Giles by now, make him climb some flights of stairs and join the fire brigade, where he gets to sit in the cold and ramble, as apparently always happens when Giles is by himself for even a moment.
While pointing out that his bucket of sand is only good for so many bomb fires, mentioning that in the summer you could bring a girlfriend up to the roof for “rumpy pumpy,” and describing the taste of spam, we cut back home, where Sue is sitting at home in the closet, eating the week’s chops in the dark.
The next morning, after some farming on the allotment, it’s time to go into the city for some cafeteria food! And to steal some bananas.
CAFETERIA MEAL: Skilly, Cottage Pie, Carrots and Swede, Apple Crumble.
Giles VOs about ditching the oatmeal-based skilly soup and eating food “fit for a man” (Giles and his Masculinity Issues: A TV Series) with the ground-meat-and-potato-based cottage pie. I forego a snapeshot of the perfectly serviceable but aesthetically unremarkable food in order to bring you this snapshot of a pile of bananas under Giles’s hat:
They go back and forth on the social and economic factors in the rise of the cafeteria, and it’s relatively inoffensive and sweet right up until apple crumble time, where Sue politely asks for a spoonful of their neighbor’s custard, and Giles scoops the whole thing right out of the dish. The face of the gent who has lost his apple crumble is nothing compared to my face of Oh God What is Happening:
After Giles can’t even FINISH his STOLEN CRUMBLE, Sue pours the leftovers into her purse, and they make a break for it with bananas in arms. As I assume the place was, in fact, paid for the bananas, and the gent reimbursed for his custard, we will just leave this behind.
…And go back home to pull the blackout curtains and blindfold one another in a way that isn’t weird at all, especially not when paired with a nervous smile like the one Giles is sporting!
MOCK MEAL: Mock Crab with Mock Mayonnaise, Mock Duck, Mock Apricot Tart with Mock Cream, Mock Coffee.
One again, Allegra supervises, and gets a couple of Viking laughs in as she shoves their faces into a variety of foods they then have to taste and identify. Sue, glasses on the outside just in case, tries to be careful about it, for many smart reasons when you’re told to identify a random thing by an awesome chef who won’t tell you anything else about it, like the part where it’s fake crab made with margarine, dried eggs, cheese, and salad cream:
They also tackle mock duck (which gives Allegra a shot to point out how the cookbook casually mentions “Shape into a duck” as if it’s a prepossessed skill), and mock apricot tart, which Allegra introduces to them with endearing honesty and comfort as, “This one’s decent.” Sue, attempting to name the dessert: “We need someone from Bletchley in to decode this.”
The aftermath, which I’m assuming is Giles just because let’s be honest, for a dude who eats food for a living he is not very good at it:
And of course, playing games in the dark:
Day 3! Sue gets an amazing bit to herself as she makes up for the visiting Gis. Beet juice as blush and lippy! And for stocking, leg-painting with gravy. (“To be able to smell your own tights – they’ve missed a trick there, they really have.”)
Sue: “It’s rare I say this, but I feel truly beautiful, inside and out.”
Meanwhile, Giles is downstairs cooking, and adds paraffin to the cake as a spot of laxative sabotage, which was apparently a combination of rationing needs and international strain. He then spits into the cake pan, because he’s twelve. Gross, Giles, seriously.
The GIs are here!
Andy and Kelly, never IDed individually, are carrying a copy of “Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain 1942.” They read handy tips about not making fun of British accents or the royal family, and then a reminder that Brits don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee, but they don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. Says the guide, “It’s an even swap.”
They have the faces of two men who are aware, suddenly, that they have signed up for a comedy-bit setup for which they have not prepared. They are right.
GI DINNER PARTY: Lettuce and margarine sandwiches, mock hamburgers, American pinwheels, lemon sponge, custard, ersatz coffee.
Everyone eats politely. Sue and Giles needle them about the royal family, trying to start the stand-up sit-down game when speaking of HRH (non-starter – these GIs are clever, if awkwarded to the max). In apology, Sue offers them a cup of “cawfee”:
They accept, because how could you not after that face; they pretend it’s delicious. The cake also goes over well, until a bit I can only hope was rehearsed where Giles told Sue, halfway through a slice of her own, what was in the cake, and she basically knocked it out of everyone’s hands. One hopes actual laxative cakes were not disseminated to the guests; however, this is a show that later poisons its own hosts, so who knows?
Dinner having been packed away delightfully (but what about the lettuce sandwiches? How are they? WE’LL NEVER KNOW), it’s time to demonstrate their need for gifts from the visitors! In case they’re not sure her stockings are made of gravy, I guess, Giles demonstrates.
(Giles. Buddy. )
The GIs are prepared, of course, and Andy or Kelly graciously says they can’t be having gravy stockings for the nice lady and hands over a pair of nylons. Giles and Sue, who are, let’s all remember, sober during all of this, accept them with grace. Giles puts it over his head and offers to rob their way out of ration books. Sue tries to eat hers.
But the bounty doesn’t stop there! Andy or Kelly leans into it a little and presents a can of pineapple with pomp and circumstance, shaking hands gravely with Giles, as Sue tries to hold in her tears.
The visit’s a resounding success! Godspeed, soldiers with senses of humor!
And now it’s the portion of the week when they split up for dinner, and Giles almost inevitably has something awesome and Sue almost inevitably gets the short end. Perhaps nowhere is this better illustrated than this week, in which Sue eats nettles, snails, and mushrooms gleaned from the forest, and Giles eats a Churchill recreation dinner. Carson has never judged a menu so hard as he does this day.
(Sue, shooting at nettles.)
Partial menu for the evening.
CHURCHILL DINNER: Native oysters, petite marmite, roast venison with mushrooms, ice cream with rasbperries, Stilton, apples grapes and walnuts, champagne, chardonnay, claret, port, cognac, cigars.
SUE DINNER: snail and nettle consomme, rabbit casserole with ear fungus, steamed bracken.
Sue also eats grass.
(These two are Sheila and Douglas, who she saves adorably, in a move she declares makes her the “snail equivalent of Sir Oskar Schindler,” which…is a thing that happens.)
Sue tries to eat dinner. She cannot handle the snails.
(Giles, and two other dudes who suggests such concepts as, “If Churchill didn’t deserve this, than who did?”)
In poetic justice, the cigar makes him puke.
Next morning: exercise!
Shopping for contraband on the black market!
And Sue cooking a heart.
Giles is actually nice about the heart, even asking for seconds. She offers the rest of hers, to which he says, “I don’t want to steal your heart.” This is the face he makes when she says, “Oh, it’s too late,” as he turns red to his ears and laughs breathlessly:
We’re cut short in his attempt to redirect heart conversation via song lyrics by a bombing alert and a mandatory underground picnic.
DINNER: Cheese and crackers, turnip soup, wartime sausages, cocoa.
There’s not a whole lot of focus on the food, at certain points in these episodes, and that is usually because Giles and Sue go gently off the rails and start to just invent shenanigans, like this game, the Hopscotch Push-N-Shove:
And a game not pictured, the Giles Masculinity Olympics: Draw Boobs division, in which he uses the hopscotch chalk to draw a naked woman to demonstrate how you could snuggle up to a non-wife lady in the subway. (The commentary’s in VO, but honestly, what is happening.) There is a very chalk-outline companion drawn next to Sue, too, so I guess there is just a lot of togetherness in this subway tonight? I have no earthly.
But that’s okay, because Sue can ACTUALLY snuggle up to Allegra, who’s come back to celebrate victory! Everyone’s excited. Giles eats icing with his hands and is pretty gross! Congrats, sir.
VICTORY: Scotch eggs, pilchard sandwiches, cheese dreams, mock banana, fish eyes and goo, jam tarts, rabbit blancmange, squash jelly, toffee carrots, honey chocolate, carrot fudges, patriotic pudding, eggless victory cake.
Giles makes up for the icing thing by chatting nicely with some children over fried-cheese sandwiches, as Allegra introduces “fish eyes and goo” tapioca to lesser effect (small girl, quietly: “That’s repulsive”). Sue tries to get a child to eat a toffeed carrot. Child vomits. Sue wins.
The picnic also features some guests whose age indicates more familiarity with the wartime situation, including a nice gent finishing off a blancmange, who points out some leftovers and posits that on actual V-Day, “I bet you there wasn’t a thing left,” which adds, if not quite gravitas, at least some salient points.
…right before the conga line starts.
And as Giles tries to wrap things up and accidentally tries to equate a week of rationed food with experiencing the war, Sue cuts a cake and everyone celebrates.
And as we leave the 1940s behind, the credits remind us both that this crew will return for a slog through The Restoration, and also that we have been robbed of amazing footage pretty much down the line, because if you won’t show us that time when Giles and Sue dressed up like Potato Pete and Doctor Carrot and danced through the streets, I’m not sure why we’re even here.