The Supersizers are back with a jaunt to the Victorian era, in which outfits are four feet across and food is all over the map. Everyone’s in the groove now. Thrill to Sue Perkins and that guy she allows to hang out with her! Marvel at her green bicycle outfit! Have some mixed feelings about some of their setups! Enjoy them upstaging a table of professional entertainers because they’re just That Couple by now! It’s an exclamatory episode all around.
Also I guess we’ll eat squirrels.
Chef Grade: Sophie Grigson, A+ cheffing and an extra + for the calf’s head
Best Guest: Pub denizen and wine expert Colin Deane.
Best Food Moment: Christmas dinner or the squirrels, depending on how you define “best.”
Worst Food Moment: That calf’s head.
Equality Now!: Sue receives instructions on minimizing her opinions on anything ever.
Worst Thing Giles Says: “We gave India education and engineering in return for tea and curry.” (Actual thing.)
Best Sue Thing: This entire episode. She’s gotten into the swing of things.
Moment Giles is Most in Love with Sue: Someone hands them mistletoe, and it goes downhill from there.
Most Random Moment: Giles fulfills his Masculinity Olympics quota with some fisticuffs.
ASPIC. There is a lot of jelly, but this week is aspic-free!
Quote of the Week: “Sully these lily-white hands with the devil’s own work?”
So, by now these two have settled in but good, and their dynamic can be assumed to slide fluidly between sniping siblings and old marrieds for the remainder of their outings. This episode is largely playful and cozy, though there are also a few things that made me raise my eyebrows (not them, they’re fine).
Let’s get started! As always, Giles enjoys a bit of fancy dress, and chats about his villainous curled moustache:
Sue gets her waist taken in several inches (she laughs in disbelief when they tell her), and struggles with a hoopskirt she clearly leveraged into No Wig Because Nope.
They meet up with Sophie, who’s arranged true bounty inside this vivid foyer:
When Sophie points out the enormous calf’s head, as if you might not have noticed, Sue starts to suggest alternate uses and Giles gets in an actual good one with, “You can slip it in Sophie’s bed if her cooking displeases you.” Corleone zinger!
And now, to table.
(This is the only piece of ephemera I capped from this episode, but worth it. “An English Breakfast Table: Remote and Silent with a Palm Tree in the Middle, Just Like We Like It.”)
BREAKFAST: Mutton cutlets, fried potatoes, smoked mackerel and anchovies, omelette, tinned meats, oysters wrapped in bacon, pears, oranges. (Carson can’t be bothered to mention tea, I guess, but it’s there. You’re welcome, Carson.)
Sue is excited about the variety of mostly-fresh things on the table that suggest some actual nutritional value! Giles is excited to call Sue “my dear.”
Not fresh: their Spam, created for use by the Navy because it would last about a hundred thousand years from all the preserving. Giles, of course, takes the entire brick. It’s pronounced to be very Spammy.
Then after some more “my dear”s and some cheek kisses, he’s off to work at a place they never even bother to set up for him at all, because he’s really just waiting outside for ten minutes before he comes back in and calls Sue “my dear” some more.
In his absence, Sue gets to read Mrs. Beeton to learn about household management! “As with the commander of an army, so it is with the mistress of the house.” Mrs. Beeton was not here for your nonsense.
Meanwhile, Giles’s lunch on the town is Indian food to reflect the British Raj. He says in a voiceover, “We gave India education and engineering in return for tea and curry,” which is a thing someone actually wrote down and said out loud in a show meant for national airtime! Let’s all just imagine it a moment.
Damn right you look abashed, sir. What the hell.
LUNCH: Beef curry, rabbit curry, vegetable curry, club claret (said with the disdain only Carson could suggest for in-house libations, and also that crap about India).
Trivia: Chefs of the age added curry to already-cooked ingredients rather than cooking them together for a proper maturation of flavor, so it tasted not super great. Giles mentions it’s like at his school (Masculinity Olympics Academy and Dorms), and then launches into a clearly-prompted line of nonsense about lovely it is for a Victorian gentleman to be able to get away from his wife (complete with joke about dessert, because Giles), and if there’s one thing he doesn’t like it’s being around his wife! Ugh, wives are the worst, he says, looking desperate to end this entire awkward bit and go back and sit next to Sue just as soon as possible.
He wouldn’t be looking forward to dinner so much if he knew what we know.
There’s a calf head in them there hills. Sophie is truly amazing about attacking this calf head to get the eyes and brains out. She ends up axing part of it open and sawing open the rest. Sophie is not messing around.
And neither is Sue, who comes down to the kitchen ostensibly to find out why dinner is late but mostly so she can hang out with Sophie and get in some awesome dialogue.
“Mrs. Beeton says cleanliness is next to godliness and two doors down is puncutality,” Sue says, as Sophie laughs and suggests she help. “Sully these lily-white hands with the devil’s own work?” Sue gasps, as Sophie nudges her out of the way before her crinoline lights on fire and coos, “It’s nice to see that you’re in charge, isn’t it,” as Sue blusters and points a finger vaguely at everything.
I would watch Sue, Allegra, and Sophie in a cooking show, I’m just putting that out there.
DINNER: First Course – Fried sole in anchovy sauce, mutton curry, sherry. Second Course – Boiled calf’s head, brains in butter and herb sauce, fried calf’s ears with tomato sauce, carrots, tipsy cake, claret.
I don’t even care about the food at this dinner until we reach the calf’s head, because in the meantime Giles and Sue working together to make Sue’s reactions into Victorian lack of affect is so amazing.
“That’s the face I know from our lovemaking,” says Giles to cap the bit, and I laugh nearly every time.
CALF HEAD TIME. It’s been boiled for what looks like several hours, which is good for leaching out all the flavor that was hanging out in there. Sophie’s stuffed it with parsley, including in the eye sockets, to disguise what it looks like. It has not helped.
Especially about the bits of teeth that got grafted to the cheek during the boiling process. Giles, stricken: “Aw, it’s all clanky!”
They try the brains, which go over no better. Sue: “My bit was, What are you doing with those electrodes? Then nothing.” Giles loses it.
And with this dry and flavorless tipsy cake, Giles, looking genuinely upset, sums up the dinner and what it indicates about his Victorian preconceptions: “Self-flagellatory, imperial, trussed-up, sexless bunch of dopeheads.” Is Giles my granddad?!
Sue: “I’d love to have an opinion……but I don’t.” Oh Sue, I always think I can’t love you more, but I can.
Field trip! It’s time for the Natural History Museum and Darwin’s diet.
“I hope there’s squirrel – oh, and there is!” exclaims Sue. After Giles touches her face with the furred foot, saying “Feel it on your face” in a voice that tries for Igor but ends up as Sue Please Love Me, and Sue affirms, “It’s a loving touch” (these two), it’s time to eat the squirrels. They are pronounced to be tasty.
Next up: candied maggots! Ennui all around. (Giles, long-suffering but optimistic: “That’s about the third nicest thing I’ve eaten this week.”)
Banishing ennui forever, it’s time for Sue to ride a bike in the cutest outfit in the WORLD.
(Fun fact: I saw this episode a little while before Kate Beaton’s velocipedestrienne comic came out, and in my head that lady is Sue, because look at her.)
Having worked up an appetite, they head for fish and chips and chat about its history as a food prepared for the Jewish Shabbat. Sue declares it the best invention ever. Giles: “You’re such a woman!” (Giles, that’s not even a thing, please just shut up.)
Sue doubles down on her claim by shouting him down about things like the light bulb (“YAWN”). The show doubles down by making him brush his teeth with charcoal and honey.
Serves you right.
Dinner party time! There’s a guest chef, Michael Weiss, to reflect the French cuisine (and French-chef employment) expected at this dinner.
DINNER PARTY: First Course – Red deer a la Royale, French beans, potato croquettes, claret. Second Course – Pigeon a la Duchesse, lamb’s tongue with spinach, claret. Third Course – Partridges with truffles, chicken quenelles, snipes on liver toast, snipe heads, champagne. Dessert Course – Russian jelly, claret jelly, champagne jelly, rice cake with almonds, torte frangipane, eggs a la tripe. (Carson judges the claret a lot. We’ll see why.)
Pigeon, stuffed with veal forcemeat, stitched together, dipped in bechamel, covered in breadcrumbs, fried, and served with more bechamel. (VICTORIANS.)
Everyone, in general, loves the food. Sue, in particular, loves the wine. She begins the evening with slightly-blushing faux-faints where Giles gets to gripe to the rescue:
Awkward Victorian prom photo!
But that is only the beginning of Sue’s drinking tonight.
Things soon escalate from hilarity to actual falling off chairs. To his credit, at that point Giles drops all his snarky pretense and becomes honestly, kindly concerned about her, trying to move conversation along as he helps her back up:
That is the prolonged hand contact of someone who is making sure their person is not going to fall off another chair. Good on you, Giles.
Roast platter, featuring snipe heads from which you suck the brains! Everyone’s very suave about it except Giles, who reacts like every baby tasting a lemon for the first time.
The dessert course is a success, featuring several colorful jellies and a tart of which Sue becomes very fond.
(“I’m picking at it.”)
Sue confessional: “I haven’t even gone to bed yet and already the recrimination has kicked in.”
The next day, Giles gets some street food of kidney and various others:
And Sue goes to a soup kitchen to cook Victorian recipes.
So, okay, let’s pause. Obviously these shows are not meant to be nuanced sociological studies of the politics of food so much as they are the Sue and Giles Funtime Hour, and we all understand that. They’re generally very clear about their elevated social status in each era, and they touch on the diets of the lower classes regularly enough; Giles’s street meat is a good example. (Also a good example: the bedbug, lice, and dog hair-infested ice-cream he mentions, because euuugh.)
And it’s illuminating to see the proportions on which the poor were expected to subsist, as Sue cooks it up. I am torn, however, about the bit in which she actually serves it to soup kitchen patrons; while it’s one thing to have a Tube station picnic in front of the unsuspecting, I am not comfortable with the idea of this being considered the equivalent (here is where I’d like to know who was informed beforehand), and though Sue seems to be taking it seriously, the idea of getting historical-cuisine bon mots from people coming to a soup kitchen weirds me out. Basically, my feelings about this segment will always be dicey, the end. (Giles’s over the top in-character monologue about the poor and do-gooder women wanting the vote does not help anything, shut up, Giles.)
The next day at home, it’s back to business as usual. Teatime (food not pictured due to boringness) is held in honor of a séance, which is probably not a thing you should get Sue to do, because she mostly shakes the table herself and makes faces at a visitor who suggests she feels something amiss:
Giles, meanwhile, has absconded to a pub with a gentleman so fun they actually identified him ON SCREEN:
Colin Deane, wine expert, explains to Giles the seductive nature of gentlemen sneaking around in pubs living dangerously, as Sue goes Full Teetotal outside. It’s adorable, particularly when she breaks into falsetto singing and people on the street halfheartedly applaud.
Then she comes inside for a beer break with the gents before she arms herself to go back outside, where there are “hoydens.” Colin, aghast: “Don’t SAY so!”
Day Mumbly, and it’s nearly Christmas! After an in-costume trip to Sainsbury’s with Sophie, during which people react about how you’d expect, Sue comes home to prepare for the big day and set out her stocking with Giles as they try to suppress giggles.
CHRISTMAS: First Course – brown Windsor soup, potato croquettes, baked cod’s head. Second Course – cold game pie, boiled red cabbage, roast goose and stuffing. Third Course – Plum pudding, bird’s custard, furmity, mince pies. Not mentioned: the claret that everyone is drinking throughout this entire meal. (Carson has had enough of all that, I guess.)
Giles cannot escape the meat-pie coffins no matter where in the past he may go; serves him right, just in general. He does, however, have the manners to lick the leftovers off before he mistletoes Sue:
(She takes a break from drinking juuust long enough for this kiss. It’s amazing.)
Also amazing: this dessert plate. Let’s just be honest.
But not as amazing as Giles, who juggles mince pies right into his mouth, which impresses Sue enough to grab the mistletoe, I guess, because the next thing you know, this is happening:
Sue falls on the floor in a fake swoon, wisely drawing attention away from Giles at a moment when I bet his face was like a Lisa Frank notebook.
And as we get an exterior shot of the house shining into the darkness, Sue declares, “A voyage of discovery, that was,” in a sound bite that could have been about anything but seems to sum up the kiss, the evening, and the Victorian era in food pretty well.
NOTE: Usually the doctor’s signoff and the farewells are pretty standard, but this one had two moments I wanted to catch. The first is what we get as Sue and Giles mount their bikes to ride off their lethargy, and Giles assures us, “No more Victorian snacks”:
Beautiful cut, show.
And then this, under the credits, shows Sue going to the window for what I desperately hope is just fresh air, as Giles leads the way and hovers like the awkward Victorian prom date he is.
Next up, these two tackle the Seventies, in which Sue has to do some of the cooking, probably because the stand-in chef for the week gives up in despair, which is cute of him, considering Sophie axed her way through a calf’s head forty screencaps ago. It should be fun, though. Fondue for everyone!