"Two Fat Ladies" waddled over to these shores in the mid '90s, 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, just 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.
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!"
(Detour: I was once in a rock band called "Fat Men With Guitars." None of us was fat, at least at the time.)
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Also circling the DVD blog's players this week is the frozen-tundra horror movie "The Last Winter," which brings to mind the (far better) remake of "The Thing." Fans of that John Carpenter film probably will enjoy this clever low-budget pic. The plot works in global warming in novel fashion.
Criterion brings two great films to market, both of which I'll be covering reviewing on the DVD blog: "High and Low" is the label's rerelease of the Kurosawa crime classic; "Vampyr" resurrects the truly strange and nightmarish horror movie from 1932.
New and notable:
Abel's Island (not my bio! First Run Features)
Blues in the Night (Warner)
Pete Kelly's Blues (Warner)
Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends (Warner)
'Round Midnight (Warner)
The Boston Strangler (Weinstein Co./Genius Products)
High and Low (The Criterion Collection)
LA Ink (Genius)
The Last Winter (Genius)