I don’t think I would have watched The Supersizers Go… if Paul hadn’t kept raving about it, but once I did it fast became one of my favourite current shows. In case you’ve missed it, food critic and writer Giles Coren and writer and comedian Sue Perkins eat a different historical menu each week. This week was Elizabethan, which had the potential to be even more stomach-churningly disgusting than Victorian … and that’s saying something.
One of the things I love about this show is the relationship between Giles and Sue – they seem to have a genuinely good friendship and they’re both very funny. Although it wasn’t quite so much in evidence this week, since they were both suffering from extreme caffeine withdrawal (tea and coffee wouldn’t be available for another hundred years).
Before they start eating as Shakespeare would have, they get checked out by a doctor who warns them that the diet is not going to be healthy – they should expect constipation, halitosis and the challenging combination of hyperactivity mixed with lethargy. The Doc also tells Giles that he has a high BMI, but it’s more because he’s short rather than overweight! I’ve recently been told the same thing. I’m not overweight, I’m undertall!
Then it was off to their 16th Century Southwark home. Meals eaten with possibly less enthusiasm than I’ve seen before this series included sheep’s lung, liver, tongue, boiled pigeon, carp with a suet pudding in its belly and fish jelly. I’m not sure there are two less appetising words than “fish jelly”.
Each meal was served with either beer or wine – reminding me of a sign I saw in a New York pub: “Beer – not just for breakfast” – but in the 1500s it was a practical matter – water was too polluted to drink.
They did have fun with the calf’s foot jelly – made by boiling calves feet (isn’t that how glue is made?). It looked absolutely hideous so Giles and Sue entertained themselves by bouncing it off the walls. A chunk eventually stuck to the ceiling.
The sheep’s head and, um, innards (tongue attached all the way to the kidneys) looked … well, words can’t really describe. Rather like what came out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien. But less appetising. Sue turned stomachs even further by poking its eye out with a knife.
Following in the footsteps – or rather caravan steps – of Queen Elizabeth, they headed to Essex to do some freeloading from a descendant of a Lord whose meal for QEI cost the equivalent of half a million quid today.
I’m not sure how much the current Lord Peter spent (well, nothing, since the TV company obviously took care of it), but the first course included whole pig. This was followed by a deer-shaped pastry that bled wine, rabbits with puddings in their bellies, dish of snow and – the piece de resistance – surprise pie. The surprise was that the pie was full of live frogs. You weren’t expected to eat them. You were, however, expected to eat a combination of lamb’s testicles and oysters. Yum.
After one week, 40,000 calories, and three times the recommended intake of protein, a sluggish Giles and Sue returned to the doctor to find that Sue had lost 4kg and Giles 3. In a week! Which is even more impressive since I don’t think either of them had pooed.
Next week there are maggots to be eaten. So that’s something to look forward to.
The Supersizers Go … Regency, BBC Two, Tuesday 24 June, 9pm
To read a review of The Supersizers Go… Seventies, go here.
To read a review of The Supersizers Go… Wartime, go here.
To read a review of The Supersizers Go… Victorian, go here.
To read a review of The Supersizers Go… Restoration, go here.