The Saint Series: Everyone, in some way, has idols or inspirations that have helped them grow in mind, body, and spirit. I have a whole group of women, who unbeknownst to most of them, ushered me towards that sacred and hallowed place in every person’s home: the Kitchen. So I shalt honor these Saints the only way I know how…by blogging about it.
Saints III and IV. The Two Fat Ladies… or the Tale of the Two Women who made butter cool (and with much more swagger) long before Paula Deen ever did.
If Martha Stewart is the queen of pristine cuisine, then Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, otherwise known as The Two Fat Ladies, are the Dames of Decadence. They drank. They smoked. They ate butter. Lots and lots of butter. Driving through the British countryside in a motorcycle and sidecar, these two fabulous women shared their love of cooking as well as their love of life with their t.v. viewers.
I saw these two broads for the first time as a wee 13 year old. I was staying up late one Saturday and switching on the Food Network (as many preteen girls often do on Saturday nights). Their show began with the two of them barreling through a cookbook in their famous motorcycle and sidecar while Jennifer Patterson, a rather bawdy brunette and heavy smoker, sang their theme song with gusto, if not actual skill. Within the first two minutes, I realized two things: that these ladies were no Martha and that I loved them for it.
The show is basically two friends making traditional English dishes like steak and kidney pie all while smoking, drinking, and bantering away in the kitchen. If you have never seen The Two Fat Ladies, you should YouTube them immediately. Just stop reading and go straight to Youtube. I will not be offended.
Though their traditional British fair didn’t always look appetizing to my then young American palette, it did seem like they were having a hell of a lot of fun. They also showed me an approach to cooking and entertaining that is a complete departure from Martha Stewart. While Martha’s cooking style was precise and meticulous, Clarissa’s and Jennifer’s recipes were loose and a little blurred around the edges. That is not to say that their recipes were sloppily thrown together without thought or skill (cough, Sandra Lee Kwanza Cake, cough cough). Rather, they just focused more on the flavors and general skills involved with a recipe than the minute details. If Martha was Rembrandt then The Two Fat Ladies were Monet; the details might have been a little fuzzy, but the end result was still masterful.
I remember in one episode where Jennifer was making Beef Stroganoff. Every ingredient was “a bit of butter” or “that much of heavy cream” and, my personal favorite, “a good slurp or two of vodka.” It was a rather heaping slurp of vodka and at least a stick of butter, but who cares. It didn’t really matter because, as they so aptly demonstrated, if something went wrong, you could always just add another slurp of vodka or another bit/stick of butter or, even better, more cream. Cooking was meant to be fluid. Mistakes were meant to be made, and there was no mistake that couldn’t be fixed with alcohol, butter, or both. And even if it did turn into a mess, at the end of the night, you still had a warm meal and a good friend to have another drink and a laugh with you.
That was one of my favorite things about the show as well as an important lesson to learn. You can be the most seasoned hostess and home chef in the world, but you still will make a hash of it once in awhile. As long as you laugh it off and pour another glass of wine (or four), you’re friends won’t care. So there you have it. When in doubt, just add a few sloshes of vodka and everything will turn out fine.
I received no money, butter, or alcohol for writing this post. Clarissa and Jennifer would be so sad for me.