Stress busters and anti-depressants come in many forms. One of my friends goes to Abbey Road whenever she feels down and perks up after spending sometime there people-watching, all her troubles forgotten at the sight of Beatle-loving tourists marching down the road.
Me, I prefer to scroll down the comments section of cooking videos on Youtube, a particular favourite being the Victorian cooking series presented by English Heritage.
One of the many things I admire about the English is their strong sense of patriotism and absolute love and respect for their country’s heritage. The Victorian way recipes are presented in the old-fashioned kitchen of a large country house that might have served as the setting of a Jane Austen novel.
The family who live in the house, Lord and Lady Braybrooke, are never seen on the screen. The star of the show is Mrs Crocombe, the very English no-nonsense cook who speaks to the audience in a tone that makes her sound like aristocracy condescending to speak to humble serfs.
Viewers from all over the world lap it up, and ask for more. They enjoy the airs and graces of Mrs Crocombe, celebrate her old-fashioned accent (‘Now we add the vanillar into the bowl’) and compete among themselves on being the lowest peasant who are not above cooking pudding (the shock and the horror of it!) in a turbot kettle.
While all this makes for delightful entertainment, it is interesting to consider the psychological dynamics of why this specific persona appeals to so many people. Mrs Crocombe evokes a period of English literature which so many generations of people grew up reading. To me, the settings, the characters, the mode of speech and the dishes being prepared are reminiscent of countless hours spent reading Victorian writers in school libraries and dreaming of ye olde England, so many comfort-reads among those old beloved books.
Tis no wonder that Mrs Crocombe’s affected mannerisms and patronising tone (‘I would have made this pudding look much more delicate had it been for Lord Braybrooke. For the servants, it’s just fine’) evoke affectionate responses from much of the viewers who too perhaps see her as a character from a beloved Victorian novel.