Clarissa Dickson Wright dead: Appreciation - we’ve lost our foremost advocate of wholesome, hearty, British fare

One of her dishes was called Bugger Blair, as a protest against the ban on fox hunting

Like Bertie Wooster’s Aunt Dahlia, Clarissa Dickson Wright was forthright, assertive, plum-faced and equipped with a voice intended to carry across a hunting field. Her early departure deprives British gastronomy of its foremost advocate. Honest, ungussied, and wonderfully hearty, her dishes are among the best food to be found on these islands: rabbit casserole, hash of crabs, pork belly with anchovies and chestnuts…

Though the four series of Two Fat Ladies brought her to national prominence, she produced her finest work in the years after her television partner Jennifer Paterson died in 1999. Authoritative and inventive, her 2004 book on game is a classic text from a real enthusiast: “I think I could eat partridge every day.”

Her greatest book appeared three years ago. A History of English Food might be described as a magnum opus if it wasn’t so much fun. Packed with historical tips – a 1660 recipe for salmon with oranges is “one of the nicest ways of cooking salmon I know” – the narrative is embellished with recollections of eating badger (“rather like young boar”), rooks (“not unpalatable”) and swan (“very fishy, rather stringy”).

As these items suggest, you didn’t go to CDW for political correctness. One of her dishes was called Bugger Blair as a protest against the fox-hunting ban. In 2009 she was prosecuted for hare coursing with dogs and, despite pleading guilty, received an absolute discharge. The main reason for the verdict is that the dogs were muzzled, but it didn’t hurt that she was the most brilliant law student of her day.

Her legal career went to hell as a result of the alcoholism that soaked up a £2m inheritance. Far from drawing a veil over her bibulous past, CDW brought it up constantly and expressed justifiable pride in her 27 years on the wagon.

For a middle-class child growing up in London, CDW enjoyed a rare proximity to the realities of food production as her father raised pigs in St John’s Wood. When a neighbour asked who butchered the porkers, her dad replied: “I’m a senior surgeon at St Mary’s, Paddington. Who do you think butchers them?” The whole family helped “wash out the tripes and scald the hair off… We prepared a lot of bacon and ham and tripe chitterlings.”

The same robustness characterised her philosophy of food. As one of Britain’s best-known television chefs, she was not blind to the irony that “while post-war Britain has shown an ever-diminishing desire to cook, it has displayed an ever-growing appetite for watching other people cook on television.”

Her extempore food lectures, delivered note-free and with lawyerly panache, were impressive for their erudition, effortless articulacy and, it has to be said, somewhat blasé approach to pedantic accuracy. (She talked of “nine different types of tripe” while most authorities would say that the cow only produces four.) It would be surprising to learn that CDW was a devotee of Wikipedia.

Though the British may be addicted to watching the fiddly impossibilities of Masterchef, it is the practical, tasty food of this irreproachably down-to-earth cook that we increasingly eat in restaurants, pubs and, it is to be hoped, our own homes. The availability of such assertive items as kidneys, oxtail, liver and anchovies is a legacy of CDW. She may have gone, but she’s left a lasting impression on our plate.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week