The Supersizers return this week with a doozy of an episode that provides some of the most off-putting food in the whole course of the series, with bonus No Water edict. It also involves dancing, snail medicine, a truly awkward date, and a wig that’s finally heavier for Giles than for Sue. Join us for the Restoration, won’t you?
It’ll be great.
Chef Grade: Allegra McEvedy, A++ cheffing
Best Guest: The ice cream seller who goes toe to toe with the Nell Gwynning Sue.
Best Food Moment: Giles presents Sue with a vegetarian meal that’s such a relief we all cry a little.
Worst Food Moment: Almost everything else. This is not a great week, culinarily speaking.
Equality Now!: Giles gets to go to an university dinner! Sue vanishes.
Worst Thing Giles Says: He gripes about Sue at a dinner and makes occasional notes about how men going out to prostitutes was probably super fun. The usual, for Giles.
Best Sue Thing: Her Nell Gwynning scene is pretty delightful.
Moment Giles is Most in Love with Sue: Giles really enjoys being fakemarried to Sue in general, but the food was so bad this week that it was distracting for everyone; there’s a very fond forehead kiss that edges out the rest.
Most Random Moment: Sue has to slap a live snail on her foot to make a point. You know, those points you make.
ASPIC. They WISH.
Quote of the Week: Giles and Sue, parting fondly outside the university doors: “Remain stupid.” “I will.”
In an era that wanted everyone to be in a wig AND a hat, Giles and Sue approach Allegra to see a table piled with meat and two sad mugs of greenery.
And to look at their menus, many of which were pulled from contemporary texts (of which there are many provided this week, which is fun if you’re into typography and illustration):
Carson note: Restoration England has momentarily defeated Carson. Imagine all of these menus being read with an enormous, slightly queasy sigh behind every lugubrious syllable.
BREAKFAST: A Barrel of Oysters, Bread and Cream, Ale.
The breakfast goes largely undocumented, because it’s pretty clean-cut. The oysters were so you could get that food poisoning started early. The water is because the Thames was too filthy to drink from. Giles and Sue spend the rest of this week drunk on ale.
Which is just as well, in Sue’s case, because she’s stuck in the kitchen with Allegra, making some food for the coming days of awful, awful food-eating.
Say hello to baby caul-wrapped tongue! (“I could nurse this,” says proud tongue-mom Sue.)
DINNER: First Course – Stewed Carp, Jowl of Salmon, Pullet in Almond Sauce, Claret.
Sue, Giles, and Giles’s truly magnificent wig try the carp, and all seems to be mostly fine until Sue offers to take a groat bet and suck the eye out of the carp. It goes about as well as could be expected.
Giles little-brothers her to pieces about it. “It was like an oily plug of snotty, tense material,” she describes when pressed, but then comforts herself that she’s won a hogshead of groats. Attagirl; use those groats wisely.
Second Course – Neat’s Tongue, Cheese, Claret, Tansy.
So, fun facts! Tansy is a sweet omelette flavored with the tansy, a fruity/minty flower that is toxic and can be fatally poisonous. Allegra douses the omelette in it. Giles and Sue eat the entire thing in 1.5 seconds, faster even than screencapping can capture. They proceed to wrestle with the cheese to the point that Giles has to get his sidearm out and slice it. This is not a super successful meal, I think, and the poison hasn’t even kicked in yet.
Giles goes to a coffee shop to make small talk about how coffee was great and also political conversation in coffeehouses was great. No mention is made about how if he doesn’t bring some nice caffeine back for Sue she’s going to hurl cheese at him, which I assume was in place, because if he doesn’t bring that poor woman some decent coffee offscreen after this then this is the worst thing he does all week.
Sue’s doing more cooking!…in a pastry crust two inches thick, called a “coffin,” which was used as a bowl and not as an actual comestible and reused six or seven times through a week..
Today, it’s cockscombs, sweetbread, sheep’s tongue, chicken heads, bone marrow, chicken, veal, oysters, and nutmeg. Well, thank goodness they spiced it, I was worried for a second that the dish might not come together!
SUPPER: Pigeon Pie, Cold Meats, Cheesecake, Claret.
How can they have more cold meats on the side?! Restoration, come on. Sue sums it up: “It’s just layers of sad, dead things.” Speaking of, Giles attempts a cockscomb.
Giles claims that men left their houses to go out eating and whoring because beer and a quickie is nicer than this, which both is extremely dudebro and a very low bar, and it would be the worst thing except he loses his train of thought halfway through trying to describe what the prostitution would entail exactly. They call the day a wash.
…Until the next morning, when Sue does a bedheaded confessional where she reveals that she was up half the night with symptoms that match tansy poisoning. “I poisoned myself,” she laughs, neglecting to point out that there was a long chain of tansy custodians before she actually consumed anything, meaning the producers poisoned her a little bit on purpose.
But that’s fine, Sue is better than your poison. She’s fine! She’s going to go dancing!
It’s pretty great.
But after her dancing the old dogs are barking, and she’s ordered by producers to put a live snail on her foot for no other reason than to film her reaction to having a live snail on her foot, because they don’t want to put crushed snails on there, and I guess poisoning them wasn’t enough funtimes for the week? So, Sheila or Douglas is recruited to crawl across her foot. She cannot even. It’s adorable and uncomfortable in equal measures!
Time for a dinner party in a fancy house! Enjoy my favorite graphic of the episode, outlining the layout of a Restoration table, mixing sweet and savoury:
FANCY DINNER First Course: Ordinary Pottage, Olio Podrida, Stewed Oysters, Quaking Pudding, Boiled Pike. (Daniel, the French chef for the evening, bemoans, “Too much meat!” Sir, you have literally not seen the half of it.)
There is so much meat of different kinds in that olio podrida I don’t even know. It comes in a tub that takes two people to carry. Sue sees it coming.
Someone at the table mentions there’s breast of iguanadon in theirs. Good one, guest! Another tries the salt crusted pike and enjoys it, to the surprise of some.
Second Course – Hash, Tonuge Pie, Lobsters, Buttrered Crab, Snow Cream, Larded Pigeon, Mince Pies, Green Peas.
Hash is meat with nutmeg and nuts, with greenery sticking out of it like a cry for help:
The snow cream, however, gets the worst reviews, since it apparently tastes like shaving foam, which honestly is a very good reason not to like something you are meant to eat.
(Meal note: The thing I judge most harshly here is not any of the food, but whoever decided the waiter had to be in Pilgrim getup. Haven’t you done enough?!)
Banquet Course – Ice cream pineapple, cherries, strawberies, jellies, candied fruit and nuts, metheglin.
Wow, this meal just keeps coming, yikes. They eat everything, because it is the only produce they will see for several more days, and do not bother explaining metheglin to peasants like you and me. (It’s mead tat contains spices and herbs.)
ROAD TRIP! Sue gets to don her visage, a nightmarish mask with eye holes that was held on by a button between the teeth, which is just some shenanigans, the past. It’s super fun.
BREAKFAST: Venison pasties, Turnips, Buttered Asparagus (Carson seems bemused by the inclusion of two whole veggies.
The pair of them work their way through the scandalous “venison” pasties made of beef, in a typical style that features Sue shoving asparagus through the eye holes in her mask. Not content to let Carson take care of it in VO, the staff of the Little Chef takes it all in with some priceless silent editorials of their own.
Ready for fresher country fare than what they’ve been offered, they head to a farmhouse for a truly delicious meal (Marrow Pudding, Scotch Collops, Roast Chine of Beef, Whiteport), and a drink called Caudle.
Time for a university dinner. No girls allowed! Except Sue, who’s nailing the Panetonne Hat trend:
She still must leave him at the door (“Remain stupid.” “I will.”) so he can go inside and sample student fare. (Giles’s VO calls it an “extremely masculine table” with a nice Carson-esque slather of irony.) The actual dinner is as uneventful and awkward as you can imagine for an evening where Giles has to handle things on his own, with the added disadvantage of two nervous students who don’t speak.
UNIVERSITY: Pease Pottage, Chewitts, College Pudding, Stewed Prunes, Ale.
Giles looks increasingly queasy (he says in his confessionals during this episode that this week’s food made him physically ill – the only time he says so, as I recall, which is saying something given some of the things he eats over the course of the series). The gentleman overseeing the dinner gives the most meaningful Do You Follow Me rendition of “Pease Porridge Hot” in the entire world, through the whole history of time.
The next day, in order to try to erase even a little of the old cockscomb and marrow pudding, they don’t eat anything. (I don’t know if this was scheduled, or if they begged the producers not to make them eat anything and threatened them with something that rhymes with blansy bloisoning.) But just so the poisoning theme can continue strong, Sue gets to pour herself a healthy bath of wormwood, chamomile, and sage in red wine, for “women in need of self-governance.” She actually makes the bath; then she actually gets in it.
The following confessional about a wormwood-poisoning dream may or may not be staged, but for me the actual poisoning bit is secondary to the fact that someone would get in that bath whatsoever, so.
You know, let’s purge all of this from memory and watch Giles be super excited to treat Sue to a vegetarian meal. While it’s quite possible everyone knew what was coming, this dude is taking a lot of happiness in showing his fake TV wife a vegetarian good time.
GARDEN MEAL: A City Sallet, Boiled Mushrooms, Pickled Samphire, Carrot Pudding, Lettuce.
(Fun historical fact: vegetables had such a bad reputation, considered fitting for “only the poorest constitutions,” that even peasants often sold vegetables as animal food instead of growing them to consume, because to eat them indicated total want of social something? I don’t know, I want to look into this more, the politics of food are so interesting and they only give you tiny trivia!)
(Fun modern-day fact: Sue continues to make this hat look good. I’m not sure why this is so striking, except that normally half the fun of her in period garb is how utterly uncomfortable she is in all of it. But not this hat!)
“Are you surprised, my dear? Are you pleasantly surprised?” asks Giles, with a weird clarification that makes me wonder how many peanut cans with snakes in them he’s given her in between episodes. “You’ve done me proud,” she assures him, and they cut to a clock tower before we can see a reaction shot of heart bubbles emerging from around the collar of his shirt and floating away into the dusk of Covent Garden.
Not that it stops him from going out on a hilariously awkward date armed with a 17th century book on how to flirt: “The Mysteries of Love and Eloquence, or, The Arts of Wooing and Complimenting, As they are manag’d in the Spring Garden, Hide Park, the New Exchange, and other eminent places,” which is just amazing. (The date’s somewhat less amazing, in which the nice young woman mentions she’s an adventurous eater and then immediately isn’t sure about whole fish, which makes you realize right from the off that Giles Coren actually had a real moment of insight when someone asked him, “Who would eat the grossest food with you?” and he went, “The woman I met that one time, Sue Perkins.”)
Speaking of, no one puts Perkins in a corner! Time to slap on some beauty marks and go to the Opera House to sell oranges and/or meet rich men. Nell Gwynne Society Unite!
The week’s best guest, the ice cream lady, is standing behind her in this shot, gamely calling out her wares as if there is actually competition in the confection market between someone selling ice cream and someone selling fish. Sue sells her only orange to an easygoing gent in white, but the dream of offloading her herring must wait another day.
Cut to: Giles reading a compliment from the book: “In your face all the graces, in your mind all the virtues are met; he that looks upon your aspect, be it the most savage creature, would derive new nature from your beauty.” Beat. “Right, shall we go?” She laughs; so did I.
Day 6! Time to light London on fire! It’s 1666 today, with PAs wearing extremely knockoff-looking plague masks, and Giles and Sue picnicking on the south bank to avoid the flames. Carson cannot even handle that this meal exists.
PICNIC: Roast Shoulder of Lamb, Boiled Onions, Gallbladder of a Hare, Ships Biscuits, Parmesan, Sack.
Giles chats about how barges of onions were floated down the Thames in an attempt to draw the Plague Vapors away from the city, which is much the same way conservative politicians treat health care in the US today (topical!). They talk together about the value of Parmesan, so precious it was used as currency. Sue talks about the importance of presentation when serving hare gallbladder, also considered a plague cure. Tasty!
And speaking of gallbladders, the huge dinner party to wrap up the Restoration is a recreation of Pepys’ annual Stone Feast, in which he celebrated getting his bladder stone removed without dying from modern medicine. Giles is assigned the operation; this week’s doctor makes a very game cameo to gleefully point out all the terrible ways the surgery could go wrong. Giles reacts with the dignity of a true historian.
But he survives! LET’S EAT. (Good use of the Hallelujah Chorus here, show.)
STONE FEAST: Fricasse of Rabbits and Chicken, Leg of Mutton, Three Carps, a Side of Lamb, Roasted Pigeon, Lobsters, Apple Tarts, Quince Tarts, Pear Tarts, Lamprey Pie, Anchovies, Wine.
First of all, the fact that I read “a Side of Lamb” as one in a parade of all-meat side dishes, because this is the Restoration, pretty much sums up how this episode is falling out for me. I cannot imagine how Sue and company are feeling.
…like drinking, is how.
Unflappable chef Allegra has returned to the kitchen for the big feast, and we are all happy to have her back to feed this increasingly proteined-out group. Have fun with the eel course, Allegra! P.S. They keep moving even after you kill them. Enjoy!
The food is mostly good, though the guests have the usual problem of being unable to believe the quantity and nature of the food being presented to them. They toast a lot. As soon as they’re in their cups, Giles starts griping about his wife (Sue is his pretend wife you guys ha ha isn’t it funny she’s my pretend wife I LOVE YOU SUE). Sue, who could not care less what Giles is saying 90% of the time, toasts to the emancipation of women, and adds some commentary to the anecdotes of their guests, who are also giving her “Oh, You” eyes.
But it’s not all carping for the camera; there’s a nicely unstudied moment where she asks Giles in a very casual sotto voce way how he’s doing, and they share a laugh of Jesus God if I Eat One More Animal Part as he kisses her on the forehead; it is the forehead kiss of two people who have been in a semi-rotten protein trench for six days.
Giles is, in fact, so drunk that he pees in the dining-room chamberpot without making a million uncomfortable jokes about masculinity, which means that dude was waaasted.
To round off the night, Allegra brings in sack posset, which is slightly eggnoggy as Allegra describes it, and the very finger of the Great Maker come down to press onto all their foreheads a blessing of greatest joy, according to everyone at the table, more than happy to wash away the meat film in their mouths with this amazing beverage. Giles, in VO, suggests it was considered an aphrodisiac!
…show says Nope.
And with two people in separate confessionals declaring their love for posset, we bolt out of the Restoration as fast as our legs can carry us; behind us, far in the distance, rolls an empty pastry coffin that’s only been cooked in five times this week and is still perfectly good.