Yeah, that’s right. I’m not ashamed to admit that I spent my Saturday night watching Two Fat Ladies.
If you’ve never experienced this jewel of a television program, you must remedy that tragedy as soon as possible. Two Fat Ladies is a British cooking show that ran from 1996 to 1999 on BBC Two. Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright are the broad broads of the title, zipping around the UK in an Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle, replete with sidecar.
Clarissa and Jennifer are both super intelligent, well-read and cultured women, and watching them cook and chat is a special joy that I find endlessly entertaining and comforting. This is not the say that their reparte is tame. Their insights and humor often veer into the ribald. But it’s never manufactured– it never feels scripted or fake. The two woman genuinely like each other and have a ball traveling, cooking, and talking.
As I watch the ladies prepare their dishes, I feel like I’m seeing some kind of fantastic culinary alchemy from another age. Drippings, lard, butter, cream, anchovies, lots of garlic, and all kinds of nose-to-tail meats and wild game feature prominently. The ladies’ technique, though not unskilled, is not the fussy, precise robotics of many contemporary cooking shows (nudge, nudge Martha). They are firmly self-proclaimed “cooks,” not “chefs.” They’re a bit rough, a bit saucy, incredibly witty, and unbelievable charming.
The finished products are highlighted at the end of each episode, with the trilling voice of one of the fat ladies describing their virtues. Examples include: Rabbit with Anchovies and Capers, Devilled Kidneys, Venison Pastie, Jugged Kippers (pictured below)…
One of the episodes I was watching Saturday featured the ladies traveling to a vintage motorcycle rally in the Lake District. Here’s a bit of their conversation while making stuffed tomatoes:
Jennifer: "Salt and pepper. Quite a lot. You want it to taste…“
Clarissa: "People’s dowries used to be paid in pepper, you know.”
Jennifer: "Well, in the East, I believe the Sultans chose their ladies for their harem by how many cloves they could put into their navel.“
Clarissa: "Oh well, I’d have been first on their list I guess, eh?”
Jennifer: "Yes, they liked a large navel.“
Clarissa: "I’d rather have a diamond.”
Jennifer: "Well if you were a good harem girl, you’d probably get a diamond. Several.“
Seriously, my entire blog could be transcribing their conversations.
So, go watch for yourself. Experience the gift that is this duo.