“Now everybody loves a fish pie, don’t they. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t.”
This is not the usual cooking show. In fact there has never been as entertaining, as informative, and as downright unique a cooking show as Two Fat Ladies, a BBC import that found fame on the Food Network after its run in Europe from 1996 to 1998.
Featuring chefs Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Wright, the show follows the duo driving around the UK on a vintage motorcycle with sidecar as they make meals from local ingredients and plenty of dairy. The first season concentrates on types of food — shows featuring game, vegetables, etc. By the second season the ladies have to make a meal for a particular group, whether a picnic, or lunch, or Caribbean-themed holiday.
The ladies are into hearty fare with bold flavors. Paterson throws anchovies into about everything she can. They joke around and narrate the recipes laced with risqué comments. There’s a casual, unrehearsed feel about the show which is the perfect antidote to the static cooking shows that infest the current television landscape.
The settings are almost always rustic kitchens you would expect to find in old English estates. The first episode starts with the ladies entering the picturesque fishing village of Mevagissey, situated in Cornwall. The ladies go about buying fish, but it’s not the usual swordfish and salmon, but rather monkfish and pollock. They pass up a John Dory, a rarely seen deepwater fish. You don’t see that on Rachael Ray. Nor does any typical chef-in-fake-kitchen show give you a feel for pastoral England. Two Fat Ladies is also a feast for travel show enthusiasts.
My favorite episode is a breakfast for the Black Sheep brewery. Wright, by the series’ time a teetotaler, throws out some interesting quips about her years as a hardcore partier. After a tour through the brewery the ladies get down to business. There’s no granola with blueberries or egg white omelets here. Southern-style corn cakes, topped with bacon and maple syrup are made alongside deviled lamb's kidneys.
Calories be damned, the two ladies sauté everything in butter, bake pheasant in pans lined with bacon, and drench their dishes in heavy sauces. But it looks so good. And where else are you going to hear lines like this, regarding pheasant: “And don’t let the fluffy bunny brigade tell you they’re sweet creatures, they are one of God’s nastiest animals.” Wright tells us this as she is lining a pan with, of course, fat strips of bacon.
Jennifer Paterson died in August of 1999 from lung cancer. It happened just as Ladies was rising in popularity on American television. The fourth disc has a heartfelt tribute to Jennifer Paterson, which though being the only extra, is a nice addition. The DVD also comes with a booklet featuring a few of the Ladies’ recipes.