Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

July 01, 2006

Interesting piece on the great man Sir Clement

from The Wandsworth Guardian

Freudian slip-up
By Nancy Groves

As regular listeners to Radio 4's Just a Minute will know, Sir Clement Freud is a rather intimidating man.

Even so, I'm not prepared for how badly I bomb when I interview him. It's 8.45am, I haven't had time for breakfast let alone research and we're meant to be discussing food, the topic of his talk at Leatherhead Theatre this Friday.

So, I see from his biography that he started out as a cook?

"You've read my biography?" he drawls. Well, no, I've read the potted resum your publicist sent me.

"Ahhhhh, so you haven't read my biography. I seeeee."

I feel like I'm back in English class without my homework. Freud's way of elongating his vowels is all very well on Just a Minute it often wins him the game but, over the phone, it's really unnerving.

After more spluttering on my part and deviation on his, he finally says: "Look, I have to go to Ascot now, ring me back at the same time tomorrow with some proper questions and we'll do this again."

I don't think he expects me to phone. So I do. And, this time, we fare a little better. Reading around, I discover that Freud's life really has been a meal in eight courses, starting with the aforementioned stint as prep chef.

"It taught me absolutely nothing," he says. "The war was about to begin and the only people in the kitchen were the too young, the too old, the blind and the alcoholics."

But is it true he cooked for George Bernard Shaw?

"Well, if that's what you want to talk about. When I was 25, I persuaded famous people to come to dinner at the Arts Theatre Club. Shaw was in his dotage then and had just written The Millionnairess for a luscious actress by the name of Florence Desmond. So I sat them next to each other."

"I would always cook for them in the style of a play and, this time, I did Restoration comedy. From my research, I discovered that in the late 1690s, the most popular dish was called ambigue' everything was popped in at once."

I can't tell if he's kidding. But Freud as matchmaker for the elderly? Now that's an image I'd like to hear his grandpa Sigmund psychoanalyse. So, what's the secret to the perfect dinner party?

"I always feel that it's the atmosphere and people that count more than the meal itself. I'd rather eat a bad meal in good company than a good one with someone who is a bit of a s**t," he says.

Which is not to say his palette is unrefined. When called in to spruce up British Rail's on-board sandwiches, his best- selling recipe was the Ultimate Egg a dab of chive butter, a little lemon, gourmet egg mayonnaise on one side and sliced egg on the other.

"I did a deal that everyone who worked in the sandwich factory would get two first class tickets each year," he recalls.

"You'd think they would order their own sandwiches to see what they were like. Not a bit of it! They said: Mr Freud, we make the sandwiches, we don't eat them.'"

Feeling the impending Ascot excuse again, I quickly get in one last question: eating in or eating out?

"Oh, eating in, every time," he says, without hesitation. "Both the service and the cooking are better. It's only the washing up I object to."

I don't know, I say. I find it strangely therapeutic. "Well, I'll cook and you can wash up then, " he says.

It seems Clement and I have finally come to an agreement.


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