The sixth and final episode of The Supersizers Go was dedicated to the Regency period, the time of Jane Austen and the lecherous, gluttonous, foppish, trend-setting Prince Regent, later George IV. Again, Giles and Sue play a well off middle-upper class couple of the day—he is a small landowner with an inheritance of around £50,000—but instead of being married as in other episodes they are brother and sister. This is so that they can portray the difficult state of an unmarried woman (Sue) with not much of her own income. The cold and sometimes horrified expressions on her would-be suitors’ faces reacting to her desperate advances seemed a bit too genuine. Here she is trying to hang onto a gentleman.
Despite the elegance and relative comfort of the age for the gentry, factors such as the Enclosure Act which prohibited anyone but the landowners from hunting on the land (anyone else became guilty of poaching), bad harvests and high taxation lead to food riots and famines. It was a desperate time for the poor. The episode only touched lightly on this facet of Regency society though, and concentrated on the frivolous lifestyle of the wealthy. (The scene where Sue goes around to the ‘poor’ distributing leftovers, reminded me of the scenes in Little Women  where the girls go to poor German or Irish families and give them hampers, which made up of their own food wrapped up. Granted, Little Women was written in the later half of the 19th century and is set in New England, but the sentiment seems to be the same. And it’s very uncomfortable to read about or watch with modern eyes, or at least my eyes. I was not born to act out noblesse oblige.)
At the beginning of the period, the English were at war with the French, so all French foods and drink (especially the beloved claret) were banned from dinner tables. Instead, people at food that is even now recognized as being Very English: Roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding, trifle, and so on. Later on after Napoleon was defeated, French food was politically correct again, and the Prince Regent hired Marie-Antoine Carême , who is still regarded as one of the greatest chefs of all time. Just looking at the English menus vs. the French menus, there’s little wonder that French haute cuisine became so revered. (Though surely the ‘very English food’ wasn’t that bad?)
Quite a lot of things about this period seemed quite familiar, mainly I suspect from all the hours I’ve spent watching Jane Austen dramas. (I have read Pride and Prejudice but admit to having never read her other books.) Even the offal didn’t seem so bad - I suppose sweetbread came the closest to that, but I happen to like sweetbread (it’s quite bland and soft, and is usually fried until crispy on the outside in butter). The obligatory Animal Head Dish was a stuffed and elaborately decorated small boar (though they probably used a pig)…it looked rather cute. Here Sue takes a nice slice of snout.
Most of the food looked quite edible really, if a bit heavy. I’d be happy to eat things like roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, trifle, and ice cream, though in smaller quantities and with more vegetables. And now I finally know what the heck jugged hare is. (It’s chopped up bunny meat cooked with herbs and things in a jug that is poached in a vat of hot water.)
Other things from this episode:
Taken any time between 11AM and 2PM
By fashionable candlelight, around 10PM
(The Prince Regent suffered from gout and became morbidly obese. His nickname in the press was the Prince of Whales.)
On the way to London (Luncheon, also called Noonshine, was the precursor to lunch)
This was supposed to be a patriotic, anti-French statement. The Society is still alive and well, apparently. (I confess, I instinctively wanted to punch my foot through the screen and kick these geezers for some reason.)
Apparently Byron was a bullemic and anorexic obsessed with this weight.
Where Giles gambles away his family fortune
There are three things that will stay with me after viewing the Supersizers Go series.
I’m not sure how much educational benefit there was to the series in the end, but it sure was entertaining. I would not mind seeing another season, sending Giles and Sue to other periods or perhaps even other lands. The Greeks? Byzantium? The Ottoman Empire? Vikings? The Eighties? Why not?
This of course concludes my lengthy recaps. I hope you enjoyed them.