Partying with Nancy Spain

Nancy likes to fill her cookery book with wholesome, nourishing, simple recipes like:

Jellied Eggs (the red crosses are tinned, red pepper, not cries for help)



Fish Turbans (plaice fillets stuffed with minced meat)

and the ever popular:

Prune Snowballs (prunes encased in choux pastry and deep fried)

But when this every day fare gets too boring, there is nothing like pulling out all the stops and having a party.

There is a whole section on parties.  Here is the introductory page:

The caption reads: ‘To help a party go with a swing there’s nothing like a gorgeous  Windmill Girl and a lot of balloons.  I asked Windmill Theatre owner Sheila van Damm for her favourite recipe.  Without hesitation she replied, ‘Anything really good as long as I haven’t had to cook it myself.’

Nancy helps you out with your guest list:

‘Without guests there is no party, so take a lot of trouble with your guest list.  For each star you invite (and it’s a good thing to have stars at a party, so people can have a look at them) remember you will need about five nice, ordinary cosy people to act as audience to the illustrious ones.  Usually stars find it very hard to talk to one another, and they top each other’s gags and are inclined to jealousy if someone is getting more attention than they are.  So watch it: and provide an audience.’

Sound advice for a mother of three who lives on a housing estate in Broughton Astley.

Nancy understands that it is not just the stars and their acolytes who like to party.  Sometimes teenagers like to party as well.

She provides tips, such as keeping things informal by scattering lots of cushions on the floor, and providing lots of napkins.  Her hot tip on the food front for the ravenous teenager is ‘Prune Kebabs’.

Just in case you’re thinking of hosting a party for your teens and are dying for the recipe, let me put you out of your misery.  You will need: 24 plumped prunes, 12 dessertspoons of mango chutney, 24 rashers of streaky bacon, 20 sausages, four dessert apples, 8 oz processed cheese, 8 tomatoes and some melted butter.

Stone the prunes and stuff them with the chutney, wrap each prune in bacon and thread on skewers with sausage, chunks of apple, cheese and tomatoes and bake for fifteen minutes.

I cannot imagine a teenager in the land who wouldn’t be wild with delight when served with a hot prune kebab alongside their bottle of WKD.

Nancy loves a party with a theme.  She spends a considerable amount of time telling you how to host a National Party.  It is not quite the right wing smorgasbord you may be imagining.  Rather one is supposed to pick a fascinating country, Nancy chose Finland for some reason best known to herself.  You then write to the embassy of the country in question who, according to Nancy will reply to you with ‘every appearance of joy’, and send you all kinds of national knick knackery and tips on costume to make your party go with a swing.

Nancy hit the big time with the Finns:

‘On this basis the most enchanting Finns sent me clear instructions for smoking sprats, as well as a lot more practical information.  Of course, if with this you can manage to entertain a pretty Finnish girl in national costume, you’re home and dry.’

This does not sound at all dubious.

Imagine your delight if you had been invited to a Finnish themed fancy dress evening with smoking sprats as the highlight of the event? You would hardly be able to contain your joy.

Finally, on the subject of parties, Nancy has three golden rules:

‘Drink is all important.  I am a champagne party girl myself.  Champagne is only about £1 a bottle, non-vintage, and it gives a lush effect, is very easy to serve and guests stay very much more amiable on it than they do on the hard stuff.’

Which is good when dealing with a posse of fake Finns in a sprat smoke filled room.


‘Food is even more important. Nobody should be allowed to get drunk.  This reflects grave discredit on the hostess. So serve lots of food, preferably on trays so that people can use their fingers, and provide lots of paper napkins to wipe up with afterwards.  Hot food should also appear as lots of theatrical personalities (who always have marvellous party manners, being very extroverted) cannot ever come to a party until about 11.30 p.m. when the theatre curtain comes down.  Then they are very, very hungry and need hot food for their poor old nerves.  I remember Jimmy Edwards in our kitchen chomping hot fish pie, giving pleasure to all the food team, gathered there, watching him.’

I’m not sure I can honestly say that watching Jimmy Edwards masticate fish pie would be something that would give me pleasure.

Nightmares maybe.

Finally Nancy tells us about music:

‘Music is absolutely essential.  To start a party this should be mildly popular with a fairly emphatic beat, so that guests have to shout to each other over the top of it.  A vocal disc is fatal, as people like Lena Horne will always listen to the words of a lyric instead of paying attention to the conversation.  A guest is no use standing with his head on one side listening to a record.’

And with that, I leave you in Nancy’s tender care and a picture of her delightful fruit curry, in which bananas feature heavily, both as an ingredient, and as a decoration.

I am off to don my dirndl skirt because I’ve got some sprats that need smoking while I drink cheap champagne and bob about to a fairly emphatic beat.

16 responses to “Partying with Nancy Spain

  1. I’m actually having some trouble with this because it is so good and funny that I wish I had done something as wonderful on my own blog, and now feel a bit inadequate because I just rambled on about horses instead of writing excellent advice on Finnish parties. Mostly though, it just made me laugh and laugh. Thank you so much; you have brightened my day with your enchanting Finns.

  2. I just, well, I just need to have a moment. This was so funny, so so funny, and then reading backwards there was more! Prunes and Finns and then Tallulah and her prostitute learnings. All very good first thing in the morning.

  3. Attila’s boyfriend’s family always have bananas in their curries, which flummoxed us when she told us about it. I did wonder if it was because they were Danish (all that pickled herring is bound to have some effect on people) but now I realise they must just have been using a Nancy Spain recipe!

    • Susan
      Yes, they were obviously heavily influenced by the sixties. Did they do lots of interesting things with eggs as well?

  4. I was with Nancy right up until she said nobody should be allowed to get drunk. Wrong. If your guests are starving and drunk they will not care if you smoked the prunes and kebabed the sprats, they will think you the most marvellous dirndl vision in the world.

    BTW, this is a public service you are performing. Vital information here.

    • Thank you. I just wish Nancy had not left us so early in her life. I think this was the only cookery book she wrote, sadly.

  5. those prune kebabs are just what I’ve been looking for. Old Nancy certainly knows how to throw a party, she reminds me of Mrs Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances

  6. I read these posts with my jaw at half mast and then insisted on reading them out to the mister – Prune kebabs! Smoked Finns! Writing to the Finnish Embassy! Celebs I’ve never heard of! Are there things in aspic? Please let there be hidjus things in aspic! Why have I never heard of Nancy Spain before? Why?
    BTW I now have this earworm thanks to your Download post
    I found myself being sued
    By the firm More O’Ferrall,
    I’d sprayed a graffito onto
    One of their hoardings,
    It was for Monsters of Rock
    And I’d sprayed “In Church Hall If Wet”

  7. Thank you for Nancy Spain cookery book review obviously a seminal work for the sixties version of the domestic goddess!?
    I felt compelled to wiki Nancy,she was a well known Lesbian who died in a plane crash on the way to the Grand National.Quote from Noel Coward about her death ‘It is cruel that all that gaiety, intelligence and vitality should be snuffed out when so many bores and horrors are left living.’

  8. I reckon British food had seriously lost its way by 1900, and until the 60s food revolution (the 60s didn’t start until 1965) it was stuff you can only shake your head at it wonderment – ‘fun things made iwth prunes’ just about sums it up!

  9. Noreen
    Don’t forget eggs. Prunes and eggs. mmmmm

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