Post # 229 The Loss of a Friend

March 19, 2014 at 8:58 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’m not usually an over-the-top fan or groupie for any celebrity.  Those that I like I pay attention to their work, but typically not their lives except as it impacts their work.  I recognize that celebs are people first, and like most people, they do not live to make me happy.  Our lives will not intersect and that’s a good thing.  However, there are two people I’ve blogged about a few times here on this blog that moved past that stage in my heart.  They became friends I never met.  One of them passed away in 1999, and the other passed away a couple of days ago.  There are no more Two Fat Ladies cooking in England anymore.

The Two Fat Ladies were Jennifer Paterson, who passed away in 1999 from cancer due to an incessant smoking habit, and Clarissa Dixon Wright who had been in the hospital since the beginning of the year and lost her final battle this past Sunday.  I felt her passing like a physical pang and realized that she and Jennifer had meant as much to me as any people I’d met in person.  Their fun-loving personalities and cooking skills and know-how made me a better person and a better cook.


Clarissa is on the left and she was the one I liked first.  They had a television show on BBC for three and a half seasons.  They travelled all over the Great Britain cooking for people; cooking old fashioned dishes in traditional manners, while spouting old fashioned wisdom through friendly banter and occasional outbreaks of song.  Their show was so wildly popular that it would have continued far longer than it did except for Jennifer’s death in the middle of the fourth season.  The DVDs are still sold and are still among the most popular cooking DVDs today.

I thought I would use this post to introduce you to their show and some of my favorite moments from them, and tell you about my favorite episode.  The show always opened with their theme song with Jennifer singing in a brassy, whisky-roughened voice while they sailed around a kitchen table in their motorcycle and sidecar in animated form.



The show always opened with the two of them having a dialog about where they were and what they would be accomplishing in that episode.


This is the opening scene from the first episode.  They were cooking for John and Audrey at the Sharkfin in Mevagissey, Cornwall.  The set the format for every show.  They would find out where they were cooking, determine their menu, scout out their ingredients.  About midway through the show, they would take a moment to explore the place they were in then continue to cook.  At the end, the food would be served to voice overs done by the two women.  The end always showed them either riding off in the motorcycle, or enjoying a glass of something and congratulating themselves on a job well done.

In the first episode, they wanted to go crabbing with “Lawrence” a quiet fisherman who seemed a trifle overwhelmed by the situation he found himself in.  But first, they decided to have lunch on the beach, and from the beach.


That’s Clarissa picking mussels from the rocks while explaining to Jennifer that there were more than enough for just the two of them.

They were constantly finding themselves in situations they didn’t anticipate.




This last one is the ladies buying Bacon Buddies on a bridge during a motorcycle rally.

The ladies were constantly gossiping about the royals or politics while teaching us and each other how to cook.





Bubble and Squeak.  Potatoes and green vegetables, usually cabbage, cooked in extremely hot oil or lard until it crusts and browns, then flipped.  Never been able to get it right, but I expect it’s because my lard is never hot enough.

In the next pictures, the ladies are gathering eggs to do some baking for a bake sale to raise funds for a local church.  After they’re sold out, they join the fun.  Jennifer spent a pound to get three tosses of a wet sponge at Clarissa.




The Two Fat Ladies loved to cook and Jennifer’s faith led them to many churches.  In this next set of pictures, they were in Ireland cooking for a group of nuns.  The scenery is amazing.  The ladies met some of the local characters.


This sister was the cattle caretaker and tried convincing the ladies it wasn’t too late to “take the vows.”  Her advice was to wait for three proposals, the Lord’s being one, and select the best.


The Mother Superior had a sense of humor that shone on her face and came out in her voice.  She loved life and all it had for her, and made you fall in love with her.  She was a soft-spoken treasure.  The ladies wanted to serve the nuns lobsters so she directed them to John.  “If he’s not at his boat, just look for the nearest pub.  He’ll be there!”



And John, king of the lobster fisherman.  When Clarissa asked if they could take his lobsters, he said sure.  When she asked, “And you’ll bill me?”  He replied, “Oh, no problem there.”


During the cooking, Jennifer gave instructions about cooking lobster.  She wanted to serve it with handmade mayonnaise.  She proceeded to mix it up by hand.  It was a sight that so enchanted me, I added it to my novel.


In 1998, the Cambridge rowing team beat Oxford setting a record for the fastest time on that course.  The ladies cooked their celebratory lunch.  One of the things they made was honey pie.  They collected the honey from the hives themselves.  The screen capture did not turn out well enough to include as they ladies were dressed in their beekeeping suits.  They looked like large walking eggs.  But here they are being impressed by the Cambridge Eight, as the team is called.


My favorite episode is when they cook for the Lock Keeper.  It’s in Wales.  The lockkeeper is about 70.  He took over the lockkeeping position from his dad, and his son is now the lockkeeper.  The wife is away on a “spree”, so The Two Fat Ladies are there to cook for him and the crew.  It’s my favorite episode for a lot of reasons.  First, the scenery is spectacular.



Second, the love that flows between the older man and his son is palpable.  Third, the respect and affection the ladies show for them is evident and heartfelt.



In this episode, the ladies learn about churning butter from whole complete milk.  The Welshman who is teaching them is a friendly, happy, singing man who give each of them a turn at smelling the milk, churning it, and slapping the butter.




Another reason the episode is my favorite is the food is amazing.  Clarissa make an apple cake unlike any I’ve ever seen before.  She makes a wad of dough, the stretches it by hand on a lightly floured tablecloth.


Then she spreads apples that she’s pared, sliced, seeded, and soaked in brandy.


Then it gets rolled up, using the tablecloth to control it.



Once it rolled, it gets twisted into a circle, placed on a pan, and baked.



More on this later.  In the meantime, Clarissa asks the younger lockkeeper to take them “legging.”  Many of the canals go through tunnels that are too low to stand in.  Two people are required to do legging.  The both lie in the boat with their legs overhanging opposite side of the boat.  As the enter a tunnel, they walk the boat slowly through the tunnel using their legs to keep the boat going straight so it doesn’t bang the sides causing damage to either the boat or the tunnel.  That segment was too dark to take good pictures, but here’s a shot of them emerging from the tunnel.


Finally the feast is served.  Old Da’ heads the table.


And here’s the apple cake!



The episode ends with some of the most spectacular scenery ever filmed (in my opinion.)






I’ve mentioned before that Clarissa had a rough life, fighting alcoholism, and abusive father, etc.  She never let those events define her.  Her attitude was always, “I’ve had the best life and the most fun imaginable!”  Here’s how I’ll always remember her.


Clarissa Dixon Wright in 2012


RIP Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson Wright!  You’ll be missed, and you were loved.


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