Posted: 07/26/2008


Two Fat Ladies


by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

Two Fat Ladies are itching to get in your kitchen!”

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I don’t know if they are fat because they cook, or if they cook because they are fat. But that’s what they call themselves, Two Fat Ladies. I’m just having a bit of fun with the words. And they, also, have much fun as they traipse around Great Britain cooking a slew of food, ranging from meats to delectable pastry items.

Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson are the two fat ladies who ham it up in any kitchen wherein they want to set up shop, as they delight their audience with what amounts to cooking lessons for such scrumptious dishes as chicken breasts with walnut l’ ail lade, roast meat loaf (or hedgehog), bubble and squeak (I’ll come back to this one), and salmon mousse with cucumber sauce, among others.

A four-DVD set, from the Acorn Media Group, features the culinary creations of the dynamic duet, as seen on BBC’s “favorite and funniest” cooking show, Two Fat Ladies.

I ran across the spice aisle at the grocery recently, and saw coriander, in real life! I had never used this particular spice, but Two Fat Ladies use it frequently, in dishes that please palates all throughout the region, as the “portly pair” travel aboard a Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle and sidecar. They gladly prepare meals for nuns, cricketers, diplomats, lumberjacks and an odd assortment of others.

Wright has a kitchenalia fetish as she shows off her lime squeezer and wonders how Paterson could ever live without one. This was while she was making a brisket of beef that would come out of the oven as “beef a la Will Moreland.” The ladies were taking over the kitchen at the Westonbirt School during their stint cooking for the lacrosse team in the Duchy of Cornwall. The recipe called for a brisket, with a sauce of chili, garlic, [and there’s that] coriander and soy sauce, among other ingredients, which included coconut milk, lemongrass and lime.

Paterson, who died in 1999 while filming the fourth season, called the Smiths and Co. Family Butcher’s Shop a “carnivore’s delight!” As evident by the ladies’ girth, they enjoy food, so concern for calories, cholesterol and political correctness is laid aside, while they turn up the flames. So “fasten your taste buds for a gastronomic ride!”

While preparing walnut l’ ail lade for the chicken breasts, Wright offered this little ditty, “A dog, a woman, a walnut tree, the more you beat them, the better they will be.” Later, A.N.’s slow shoulder of lamb was prepared with beans, onions, garlic, fresh tomato puree, white wine, and bay and rosemary leaves, as well as peppercorn—this was placed in a casserole and cooked very slowly.

Two Fat Ladies was the most popular cooking show in BBC history, and it was a Food Network hit in the United States.

Okay, now we’ll examine bubble and squeak, which is comprised of onion, boiled potatoes and cabbage, frying in hot lard, which is also covered with more lard on top. You pan fry this mixture, sort of like frying hash browns, and the noise that it makes resembles “the bubble of the hot lard and the squeaking of the greens.”

“Doesn’t that pheasant look pleasant!” is one of the refrains in the opening scene of Two Fat Ladies. Wright recalls how she once managed a pheasant farm that bred more than 25,000 pheasants, “one of God’s nastiest animals.” She tells the story of how pheasants “come out of the egg trying to peck each others eyes out” and how they have gang bangs when “all the cocks go around and jump on the female pheasants and rape them to death.”

In case you didn’t know, a pheasant is very bland and must be hung to increase its flavor; adding fat while cooking pheasant further enhances its flavor. While making pheasant and pickled walnut terrine for a hunting party at Lennoxlove House in East Lothian, Scotland, Wright lined the bottom of a tureen, or loaf pan, with bacon and then added stripped pheasant meat that had marinated in red vermouth; she alternated pheasant and pickled walnuts, and topped the entire dish off with more bacon. This tureen was placed in a pan with water and both were placed in the oven for baking. This method called Bain Marie kept the bottom of the pan from burning, and the steam aided in the cooking process.

Two Fat Ladies visit the Scout Association Camp in Kielder Forest, Northumberland and the Westminster Cathedral in London, among other places. The four-DVD set also covers fish and shellfish; meats; fruits and vegetables; cakes; as well as game and pumpkin soup, jerk suckling pig, rice and peas, and a spice bun, as the pair prepare a Caribbean Christmas at the Good Hope Country House in Jamaica.

For cooking enthusiasts or for just plain good entertainment, Two Fat Ladies, available July 29 from Acorn Media Group, is a good DVD choice.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.

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