“Two Fat Ladies” waddled over to these shores in the mid 1990s, adding spice to what was already an eclectic mix on the Food Network. Back then, “Iron Chef” was fresh and the “Fat Ladies” were, well, phat.
After 1999, the Food Network branded itself into blandness, and, alas, the Fat Ladies cooked no more. Jennifer Paterson, the lady who drove the show’s signature Triumph motorcycle, died rather suddenly of lung cancer.
The complete “Two Fat Ladies” DVD set, imported by Acorn Media, contains a 2004 BBC tribute to Paterson that tells of her fairly amazing life growing up bold and British, with a total disregard for authority. For decades, the well-traveled cook was in high demand at London’s choicest dinner parties, both as a guest and a caterer.
“You could always hear her voice in the recipes,” a friend says.
The Fats didn’t know each other before the show and, according to the producer, didn’t spend much time chatting off camera. Still, Clarissa Dickson Wright showed up at the hospital bearing Paterson’s requested last meal of caviar, the story goes. “She didn’t see the point of flowers — she’d rather have caviar,” her partner explained.
Caviar, of course, wasn’t “Two Fat Ladies” fare.
Lard and butter were the basics for most dishes, slathered on in portions that would give a nutritionist hives. The BBC chief of the time recalls their “pornographic zeal” in pouring on the butter. “They were determined that as many people as possible should die early because they’ve eaten (these recipes).”
The show had its share of great-looking dishes, too, and offered honest culinary instruction. It made no pretense of keeping up with cooking trends, however. The Fats officially hate vegetarians.
Paterson lit up a ciggie when things got slow and a glass of spirits always was close at hand. To cook, “All she required was a large whisky and a lot of attention,” another friend says.
The motorcycle with sidecar attached for Dickson Wright was the BBC’s idea. Paterson had buzzed about London on “scooters” for decades. The Fats traveled the back roads of Britain for segments that ran between the cooking sessions.
Dickson Wright doesn’t get much face time in the extras, repped only by a brief text bio. On the show she’s a full partner. She, too, enjoyed a life of note, and so the ladies swapped great tales as they cooked. There was always time to burst into song (the Fats sang their own TV theme number).
The “Fat Ladies” DVD set has OK audio and video, in stereo and TV full screen. A brief booklet has “eight yummo recipes,” including the famous “Hedgehog” meatloaf. “Quekke treat!”
Update: Cooking Channel revived the “Two Fat Ladies” series in 2011 and presented a marathon of the offbeat cooking series on Christmas Day 2012. The channel is a spinoff of the Food Network.
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