BBC’s ‘Two Fat Ladies’ was the perfect fat cooking show

In general, I don’t watch much TV about food. After thinking about food and eating all day at work, the last thing I want to do is hear more from chefs about their incredible creative abilities and personal struggles in an episode of Chopped.

It doesn’t help that the format has been twisted and abused over the past decade, with cooking shows becoming increasingly absurd in their attempts to attract viewers. From Guy’s Grocery Games at Gordon Ramsay Upper level kitchen, I have no real tolerance for messing with the already dramatic cooking process by, say, forcing chefs to switch cuisines in the middle of preparing the entrée. That’s probably why I have an undying love for the quiet simplicity of two fat ladiesthe best cooking show in television history.

Premiering in the UK in 1996, the BBC show follows Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright as they board their Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle – driven by Paterson with Dickson Wright aboard a sidecar – and go on an adventure, like fishing for scallops on a boat in Cornwall, all resulting in a multitude of dishes that range from slime to total confusion.

two fat ladies – syndicated to the Food Network in the US – is pure comfort TV, perfect for binge-watching on a lazy weekend. It’s not exactly a show for those looking to expand their own cooking repertoire: you watch the hosts cook more than learn how to prepare the recipes, and it doesn’t offer the same kind of step-by-step instructions. that you see on Every day with Rachael Ray Where America’s Test Kitchen videos. Rather, the series is like sitting at the counter of your lovely British aunts, watching them prepare a hearty meal.

More than that, though, it’s one of the few positive portrayals of fat women in food media. From the start of the series, Paterson and Dickson Wright exude incredible, genuine joy without the glitz or high-priced production involved with the modern cooking show. It’s a bit cheesy, very charming, and perhaps the only cooking show in history that doesn’t shy away from saying its hosts are, in fact, fat.

“Catch that crab, Clarissa!” Eat that beet Jennifer!”, the upbeat intro tune. “Well, doesn’t that pheasant sound nice? come into your kitchen!At the end of the theme song, cartoon versions of Paterson and Dickson Wright on their motorbike crash into a wall like the Kool-Aid Man.

These two fat ladies prepare and eat with joy and without excuses. There is no guilt or shame, which is extremely rare even when thin people eat on screen. In the world of two fat ladiesevery delicious bite made with love is “worth the calories” because Great British Bake-Off Judge Prue Leith might say. Only here it actually goes without the reminder of the pernicious impact of dietary culture on our enjoyment of rich and delicious foods.

This attitude, of course, earned the show some scorn in the ’90s, at the height of the low-fat food craze, with critics complaining that Peterson and Dickson Wright were “encouraging” obesity. The backlash was so significant that Dickson Wright later said both men were threatened with death, but the duo remained themselves throughout two fat ladies‘ four Seasons. When the “body positive” movement was still brewing, these women were already experiencing it.

The show also dispelled some of the ideas people had about obesity and obese people in general – that we are lazy or lonely or unable to enjoy even basic physical activity. Instead, Dickson Wright and Paterson live their lives to the fullest, their builds never stopping them from hopping on a crabbing boat with a fisherman who sings sea shanties, or riding their motorbikes around the countryside to cook meat. wild game. It’s a refreshing break from the relentless competition and fabricated drama that dominates modern cooking shows, and perhaps more importantly, the obsession with diets and “health” that infects even Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, whose the entire brand is built around indulgent, sumptuously prepared foods.

Unfortunately, the show was tragically cut short after the fourth episode of its fourth season in 1999, when Paterson died months after being diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 71. But it lives on forever on YouTube, where nearly all of its 18 episodes are available to stream for free, offering a whole new audience to experience the unadulterated joy – and fat celebration – that two fat ladies brought to the screen.

It’s a shame that modern food television, with its intense stories and brilliant production, doesn’t feel more like the intimate, natural comfort of two fat ladies. Then maybe it’s time to restart. Our screens could use that laid-back, effortless vibe more, and it would be so refreshing to see two people who don’t care how many calories are in an entree or whether or not their bodies are “TV-ready,” so that they create and enjoy the wonders of food.