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Two Fat Ladies

Two Fat Ladies was a British television cooking programme starring Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. It originally ran for three seasons, from 1996 to 1998 on BBC Two. The show also appeared on the Food Network in the USA, and on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Australia.


The show centered on Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson, travelling the United Kingdom on a Triumph Thunderbird driven by Paterson. Wright rode in the sidecar as they travelled to various destinations, such as an army camp or an all-girls' school, where they would prepare large meals, often with unusual ingredients. Both ladies were very fond of strong flavours, and would often use things like anchovies, garlic, and various herbs and spices quite liberally. The recipes were gleaned from an older time and tradition when ingredients like rendered fat and drippings were used as well as raw eggs and unpasteurized milk products. They emphasized the importance of using fresh ingredients of the very best quality, avoiding supermarkets for farms and roadside markets.

Paterson was a devout Catholic and her uncle, Anthony Bartlett, was a senior aide to the Archbishop of Westminster, and so episodes were filmed at Westminster Cathedral and an Irish convent. While cooking for at Westminster Cathedral, Jennifer cooked an original dish, Peaches Cardinal Hume. In the same episode, Clarissa Dickson-Wright demonstrated a bubble and squeak recipe which used 2 ounces of lard, which she insisted was the only fat that could ever get hot enough to produce the recipe as it should be produced. Similarly, her recipe for buttered spatchcock saw chickens covered with a thick layer of butter, bread and more butter on top of the bread. Recipes such as this led to criticism by some journalists who considered them a bad influence on the British diet. The ladies had a dislike of vegetarians and both would speak quite disparagingly about them in a humorous way; Patterson once said a vegetable sandwich was "Delicious, despite its vegetarian overtones.". In one episode, Jennifer explained that although Kedgeree had originally included lentils, a Colonel's maid who brought the dish back to England got rid of all the lentils. The story won cheers of support from Clarissa who said, "Hurrah! Get rid of all lentils. You've no idea how randy they make vegetarians."

Paterson and Dickson Wright sang their own theme song, and Paterson often burst into song during the show, once introducing Apple Pan Dowdy with a verse from an Andrews Sisters song. They revelled in cooking at grand locations. When cooking at Lennoxlove House, Clarissa explained how the Duchess of Lennox had left her estate to her nephew, to which Jennifer declared, "That we should have such aunts!". Much like in a standard double act, Dickson Wright often came across as the more sensible partner.

Both Paterson and Dickson Wright were unconcerned with fat or calories. Paterson also smoked heavily and, at one point, takes the opportunity to go out for a cigarette while a dish cooks in the oven. Most episodes ended with her smoking a cigarette and drinking something alcoholic. In one scene on the grounds at a girls' school, in order to keep the wind from blowing out the lighter, she opens her coat and lights her cigarette in its shelter. Several times references are made to the fact that Dickson Wright, a recovering alcoholic, no longer drinks any alcoholic beverages.

In 1998, the ladies filmed an episode at a Safari Park where Paterson asked if she could take special care of the elephants. This was the last episode she was able to shoot. The close of the show was extended and instead of the usual one minute close, it ran to five minutes. She informed Dickson Wright by telephone that she was feeling ill, and went to see the doctor. She was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer and was hospitalised immediately. The day before she died, she asked Clarissa to take her a tin of caviar but when Dickson Wright arrived at the hospital, Paterson had died. Clarissa said that after Jennifer's funeral, she ate the caviar as a tribute.

It was suggested by the show's producer, Patricia Llewllyn, that the ladies hardly spoke to one another off-set. However, in her autobiography, Dickson Wright said that after Jennifer's death, "Our lives were that much poorer."

Besides describing the hosts, the term "two fat ladies" is a bingo call for the number 88. The motorcycle in the programme bore the registration number N88TFL.

In the Media and Popular Culture

  • The show was parodied on Royal Canadian Air Farce as "One Fat Lady" with the late John Morgan as Dickson-Wright making a fatty and sugary treat consisting of goose fat, greasy animal lard, a packet of Sugar Twin (if you're watching your figure like she is) and blackstrap molasses. It was known as "the same tasty treat that killed the other fat lady".
  • The two fat ladies appeared on an episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, fighting against Emeril Lagasse
  • Comedian Chuck Knipp used his alter ego Shirley Q Liquor to tell an exaggerated description of the show. The skit can be listened to here
  • Two Fat Ladies has also been mentioned on Gilmore Girls. The two protagonists are channel-hopping and come across the Two Fat Ladies television show, and reference is made to their having seen every episode multiple times. They also refer to the death of Paterson.
  • In a season 2 episode of The Osbournes, Ozzy watches cooking clips from Two Fat Ladies on television.
  • A February, 1999 episode of Saturday Night Live had a sketch which parodied Two Fat Ladies. Brendan Fraser and Darrell Hammond played them, as they cooked dishes sautéed in pure buttermilk.

DVD Release

The Two Fat Ladies DVD set was released in the States in July 2008. The Acorn Media set includes a 40-minute BBC tribute to Paterson, a pair of sketchy bios of the stars and "six yummo recipes" in a booklet. It contains all 24 episodes across four discs. The show previously was released in Britain as a Region 2 DVD set.

Episode List

Season 1

Episode Number Title Air Date
01 Fish & Shellfish October 9, 1996
02 Meat October 16, 1996
03 Fruits & Vegetables October 23, 1996
04 Cakes October 30, 1996
05 Game November 6, 1996
06 Cooking in the Wild November 13, 1996

Season 2

Episode Number Title Air Date
07 A Cocktail Party may 29, 1997
08 Lunch October 6, 1997
09 A Picnic October 13, 1997
10 Afternoon Tea October 20, 1997
11 Breakfast October 27, 1997
12 Dinner November 3, 1997
Special Two Fat Ladies Christmas December 24, 1997

Season 3

Episode Number Title Air Date
14 Benedictine Nuns September 2, 1998
15 Potatoes Galore September 9, 1998
Special A Caribbean Christmas December 22, 1998


External links

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