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Word of mouth

Two Fat Ladies: The passion lives on

Fat Ladies

April 3, 2000
Web posted at: 12:41 p.m. EDT (1641 GMT)

(CNN) -- Hearty food and hearty laughter have always been the hallmarks of the Two Fat Ladies. And while Jennifer Paterson's death last summer silenced this culinary dynamic duo, the spirit she and Clarissa Dickson Wright cultivated lives on.

A new book and several upcoming television shows, all completed while Paterson was in the hospital, celebrate the robust contribution these British women made to the cooking world, and their quirky, humorful approach to food.

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'No second-best'

Their last cookbook, "Two Fat Ladies Obsessions" (Clarkson Potter) is a tribute to Paterson and Dickson Wright's "unswerving passion for good food -- no compromises, no second best."

A breezy, eclectic recipe collection, it's not for the timid -- or the figure-conscious. The Ladies have always pooh-poohed low-fat cooking in favor of the flavor butter, lard and oils provide, and this book continues in that vein.

"Obsessions" is no traditional cookbook, with chapters on meat, fish, vegetables and desserts. Instead, Dickson Wright and Paterson each describe 17 of their favorite ingredients and provide a handful of recipes that showcase each one.

The result is an unconventional, but entertaining, guide to eating like a Fat Lady.

The chosen ingredients range from the simple -- pasta, chocolate, chicken -- to the small -- salt, butter, olives.

The most intriguing chapters, however, highlight items that are downright unusual to the American palate. Think snails, roe, cardoons and eel.

An entire section is devoted to variety meats (liver, kidney and other internal delights) and a separate one to tripe, while the sausage chapter includes a recipe for Truffled Tongue Sausage -- a dish Dickson Wright assures will "amaze and delight your friends."

And lest potential cooks be put off by the prospect of stuffing an entire beef tongue into a sausage casing, Dickson Wright explains that it's "just as simple really as applying a condom, though, of course, less fun."

Freshness is key

Throughout the cookbook, the women trumpet the virtues of using only the freshest ingredients.

They encourage readers to seek out merchants with high-quality meat and produce -- or better yet, grow their own vegetables.

Dickson Wright suggests collecting dinner snails straight from the garden -- though she recommends putting them on a tray of oatmeal for two days to purge any toxins.

Paterson exhorts readers to seek out markets with olive stands. "There is no excuse," she writes, "for buying those bottled ones with a nasty, watery flavor, which are a terrible surprise when offered at badly organized festivities."

A fond farewell

"Obsessions" is peppered with such wry observations, familiar to fans of the Two Fat Ladies cooking show.

But the book is also a tribute to the memory of Jennifer Paterson, who was ill with cancer in the final stages of production.

Her discourses on the delights of fava beans or anchovies will bring a smile to fans who have missed her humor; the book's preface and introduction may bring a tear.

Both sections touchingly describe Paterson's mischievous wit while in the hospital, and her enthusiasm for finishing the book and television projects despite her deteriorating health.

A televised tribute

The Food Network plans to make sure Paterson's effort wasn't in vain. The cable station has been the home of the Fat Ladies cooking shows since they began airing Stateside, and executives there have prepared a grand sendoff for the series.

Starting April 3, the network will air the final four Fat Ladies episodes.

True to form, the Ladies serve up a hefty dose of fun with their food. One show finds them treating elephant keepers at a safari park to chicken, lamb and chili dishes; another finds them cooking dinner for Portuguese potato pickers in Jersey.

Recipes from "Obsessions" have a prominent place in the shows. Lumberjacks in western Scotland feast on Poule au Pot, a hearty chicken and beef dish, while jockeys in Kelso get Green Beans with Mustard as a side dish. The potato pickers get scrumptious Chocolate Pye for dessert.

Food Network saves the best for last, however: a tribute to Jennifer Paterson entitled "One Fat Lady, One Large Life." The hour-long special, airing on April 9, combines archive footage with more recent material to chronicle Paterson's accomplishments in and out of the kitchen.

The lavish attention confirms the Two Fat Ladies' prominent place among modern culinary stars. Their irreverent attitude toward certain recommended nutritional guidelines certainly earned them critics. But their unabashed drive to eat, drink and be merry earned them loyal fans who will miss their refreshing outlook.



RELATED STORIES:
Chefs learn recipe for TV success
March 31, 2000
Chefs are hot, even out of the kitchen
July 19, 1999
'Two Fat Ladies:' Cooking show heavy on humor, calories
March 29, 1998

RELATED SITES:
Food Network: Two Fat Ladies
Clarkson Potter

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