Teaming up two posh, fat old birds to do a show about cookery was definitely a counterintuitive idea. In an era when health is everything and pleasure is supposed to take second place to getting your ‘five a day’, the stars of Two Fat Ladies – Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson – were decidedly un-PC TV stars. Their food was rich, they had no time for vegetarians – whom they treated like some kind of alien species – and they were quite content to go and blast their food out of the skies with a shotgun.
Dickson Wright was a smart woman with distinctly hedonistic tendencies, as her love of booze revealed – she was a former alcoholic by the time she became a star. Hers was a full life. She grew up in posh St John’s Wood in north London, the daughter of a surgeon (who was also an alcoholic), and even claimed to have had sex behind the speaker’s chair in the House of Commons with an unnamed MP. It was the litres of tonic (or rather, the quinine they contained) that she consumed with her gin that she claimed screwed up her adrenal glands and made her fat. She certainly liked the high life, making herself bankrupt three times, despite inheriting millions.
While she could be a bit of a snob when it came to cheap food, she was still a breath of fresh air at a time when the whole discussion of food comes with a large side order of fear. Her popularity was testament to the irritation of the public with moralising health freaks, and her philosophy was that life was for living, not for the mere avoidance of death. That’s definitely worth a large, celebratory G&T. Farewell, Clarissa Dickson Wright.
Rob Lyons is associate editor at spiked and author of Panic on a Plate: How Society Developed an Eating Disorder. Visit his website here.