Fanny Craddock’s Christmas Puddings: A Story of Invention and Reinvention

A Story Which May Be Out of Season. But the Message Is One for All Seasons

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

My brother, Noel is an amazing cook, and dinner at his house is always a culinary delight. As we both live in London, we’ve shared many Christmas dinners with our respective family and friends.

I remember one Christmas dinner when we were finishing our meal with a traditional Christmas pudding he had made, and I relayed a story of the first Christmas pudding I made.

It was in my first year in secondary school. I gave the pudding to my sister, Olive and her family as a Christmas gift, but when she opened it, she found it had gone mouldy!

My brother relayed a similar story about Fanny Craddock, who secured an order for her Christmas puddings from Fortnum and Mason — the wonderful British Food Emporium who for three centuries have been committed to bringing the world’s best food to Piccadilly. (In their own words).

Now unfortunately for Fanny, the Christmas puddings she made, which were distributed in their Christmas hampers to their elite clients, suffered a similar fate to mine — on opening them, they also found them to be mouldy. Oops!

Fanny Craddock was perhaps the queen of invention and reinvention. By the time she had become the grande dame of TV she had over forty years of WorkLife ups and downs. She took jobs that included washing up in a canteen, hawking penny cures for tired feet at the Ideal Home Exhibition and selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.

She carved out a minor reputation as a novelist and children’s author under the pseudonym “Frances Dale”. But it was her first recipe book, The Practical Cook, that opened the door to Fleet Street in 1949 when she became a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.

This led to a TV series that was initially suggested as a six-week run about weekend breaks in the country. Evelyn Garrett, Womens’ Editor, said she wanted Fanny “to find out if there is anything left that is worthwhile in the inns of England.” When Fanny asked “What sort of anything?” Evelyn replied: “A warm welcome, honest fare, integrity, Fanny, if it still survives.”

Fanny proposed the name “Bon Viveur”, as it was sexless and covered food, wine and, vitally, travel. This gentle experiment evolved into a five-year voyage of discovery, during which Fanny and her husband Johnnie visited thousands of hotels and restaurants, home and abroad.

Similarly to Fanny, we all have the potential to develop new skills that will allow us to perform in the career of our choice and in line with the demands of the role.

I also believe we all have the capacity and capability to have a number of careers in our lifetime, and the proof of that, I guess, is in the pudding — or maybe not!

As for Fanny, she continued reinventing her WorkLife, becoming among other things the grande dame of cookery TV. She hung up her chef’s hat at the age of 85.

[Note: Fanny Craddock’s story was adapted from an article written by Clive Ellis for the Telegraph on 18 December 2007]

Fanny Craddock’s story is just one story of people’s remarkable ability throughout history to invent and reinvent themselves at whatever WorkLife stage they were at. Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook: A Story of Invention and Reinvention is another story.

Fanny’s story is from my book: How To Successfully Invent and Reinvent Yourself, from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.

Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, where you will see the stories and assignments. Tap the link below to see the other books in the series. 

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.