Plummier than all the entries in Debrett’s
Use fruit for what it was intended – as an ingredient karoostew
NO ONE delivers a putdown better than an upper- class twit, the irony being that even though he or she is an upper-class twit, they are too smug and aware of their superiority to see themselves as anything other than superior both by birth and class.
We who come from supposedly lower orders – and I happily put my own hand up to coming from working-class stock from an industrial part of Yorkshire – may know they are just like the rest of us, but in the presence of words that sound as if they have been delivered from a mouthful of greased marbles and the concomitant haughty demeanour, we may curtsy clumsily while inwardly screaming for help.
We – if by “we” I may presume to mean those of us who are supposedly less favoured by birth and, therefore, worthy of social disdain – may find ourselves overly impressed by these people, who have in their arsenal a weapon of devastating consequence: a plummy accent.
It is as if the British aristocracy – and the people we are talking about are British with barely an exception – at some stage in its early development understood that, in order to lord it over the tenants, they needed to quell them with sheer, undeniable class. And the crisper and plummier the accent, the more cowed they (we?) would be. The phrase “talking down” does not exist for nothing.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the likes of a Stephen Fry or a Noel Coward, the late, great entertainer whose musical contributions include Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun and the poignant Mad About the Boy, neither of which would pass muster if delivered in anything but the plummiest of accents.
We may laugh at them – just look at Maggie Smith’s dowager countess in television’s Downton Abbey – but if we were introduced to them at a party, we are likely to feel out of place, and stammer in reply to a simple greeting. (The solution, by the way, is to become a journalist. The nature of the job means you meet and rub shoulders with everyone from a cleaner and a stevedore to a tycoon and a prince. You soon learn that we are, truly, equal in that many people of the most humble birth have more character and vim than, oh, you know, filthy rich politicians.)
It’s not happenstance either. A plummy accent – speaking as if you have a plum in your mouth – is called “received pronunciation” and was taught in English schools in centuries and decades past. It’s also been called the Pygmalion Factor: ie, the story that became better known in the stage musical and later film My Fair Lady, in which Professor Higgins teaches Eliza Doolittle “how to speak” in phrases such as “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” and “in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen”.
Our own Dali Tambo seemed to have been a pupil of Professor Higgins before he returned to South Africa from exile in the UK after democracy came in the 1990s, and we were all in the thrall of this man with a well-oiled turn of phrase. Yet it was only an accent.
There is no harm in teaching ourselves to speak better – it helps in landing jobs, especially on radio or TV. But we don’t need to go as far as stuffing a plum in our mouth and trying to recite “but Englishmen detest a siesta”.
Rather use plums for what they were intended: as an ingredient, such as in this pork dish I made this week.
Pour 2 Tbs olive oil into a bowl. Add the apple jelly and the juice of three ripe plums – just cut an incision in the plum and squeeze it into the bowl with your hands. It doesn’t matter if the pulp goes in, but don’t use the skin. Or the stone, obviously. Add the ground ginger, salt and pepper and stir into a paste.
The pork sirloin I bought did not have the thick, outer skin that could have made crackling. If yours has this, carefully remove it, score it, and cook it in a separate, dry pan in the oven after oiling it and seasoning well with salt. Clean the pork sirloin and wipe with kitchen paper. Score the fat with a sharp knife. Season all over with salt, then smear the baste all over.
Place in an oiled oven pan and roast at 220°C for 20 minutes then turn the heat right down to 150°C and leave for up to three hours. After two hours or so, remove from the oven, place the meat temporarily on a plate, and pour cold water into the pan. Use a spatula or flatended wooden spoon to scrape every bit of brown goo from the pan. Pour this deglaze liquid into a bowl and keep aside for the sauce you’ll make later. Return meat to same oven pan and put it back in the oven.
To make the sauce, simmer the onions and garlic gently in 2 Tbs olive oil until softened, then add juice of the remaining three plums, and the deglaze water you set aside earlier. Heat through, season with salt and pepper to taste, and let simmer to reduce to a thicker consistency. Let it cool a little, then blend thoroughly. Strain and reheat for use.
Serve thin slices of the pork sirloin with bright, crisp vegetables simply steamed and then finished in olive oil or butter and seasoned.
TASTY COMBO: Serve slices of the pork sirloin with steamed vegetables of your choice.