Becoming Two Fat Ladies
My sister and I had always fancied ourselves as hosts of a cooking show. Along the lines of ‘Two Fat Ladies’. We discovered our potential when we worked in a deli together. My sister taking the orders, me making the sandwiches. Everything fine until we collided in each other’s space, then war broke out. Flailing arms, mayo, and sliced turkey, foul language and an absolute resolution that we’d never work together again. Good for television though we thought and with me being a trained chef.
But our lives went down a whole different path. Marriage, kids, work, travel. Divorce!
After the divorce we started to spend more time together. We bought ourselves a digital video camera for Christmas one year, and after taking mundane footage of my dance classes and horses running in a field we decided to try our hand at our longtime dream.
“You’re on air”, my daughter held the camera. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6…..
“Thank you for joining us. Today we are going to make our favorite pigeon pie.”
“And I will show you a delicious mint and peppercorn cake, just delightful with lashings of whipped cream”.
My home kitchen became our studio. We spent weekends fumbling through swap meets and car boot sales for amusing aprons and nick nacks to add credibility to our anecdotes.
“Do you remember Isobel, strawberry picking with Aunt Dot in Henley?”
“Oh yes I do, the smell of strawberries always takes me back, in the same way as the smell of curry takes me back to Singapore”.
“That is why today we are making strawberry summer pudding timbales and Rendang curry. Yummy. Stay tuned.”
Every week I would take my cooking show footage to the office and edit it into 20 minutes episodes. I would also throw in some commercials. A tube of squeezy cheese with a crawling line across the bottom, “save time, don’t cut the cheese”.
Our dog licking up the scraps on the floor featured every week along with glasses of wine being slurped voraciously, mostly by me.
It was all for our own amusement at first. We would watch the play backs with tears streaming down our face, and see where the episodes could have been made better. Occasionally we would have guests join us for dinner or video the actual shopping experience leading up to the cooking.
Then a trip toEngland. We hadn’t been to England in a long time and decided we would take our trusty camera with us. “Becoming Two Fat Ladies’ my sister screeched. “Let’s video us noshing on all our old favorites. Pasties, cream teas, sausages and baked beans. Gooseberry fool.” My daughter and a scotch egg.
“Is this from a Scottish chicken?’ she actually asked.
It was a blast. It added a whole new dimension to our trip home. My sister eating fish and chips on the street in Worthing. Deliberately picking up a chip from the floor and eating it before the lurking sea gull did.
“I love a good sausage roll,” I said. “The smell brings tears to my eyes as I remember Paddington station, waiting for the train to take me back to school, smelling the savories and wanting a sausage roll so desperately, but having no money. I asked the server behind the counter one time if I she could just give me a sausage roll? Maybe the one on the end that wasn’t perfect. She wouldn’t relent. ‘Look’, I finally said, ‘you don’t give a rats bottom if that sausage roll disappears. I bet you’ll eat it yourself later, judging by the size of your lardy behind and bingo arms, you just work here, it’s just a stupid job’. She eventually picked up the sausage roll and threw it at me. It bounced off my forehead and landed on the floor. I ate it anyway, saying very politely over my shoulder ‘thank you’.”
We lugged the camera to Clovelly to be seen eating Mr Whippy ice cream next to the Punch and Judy show in the harbor.
We stopped at every Little Chef to chomp on a full English breakfast. Squishing beans, bangers and mushrooms onto our fork.
“In America people tend to eat the items on their plate separately. Cutting everything with the edge of the fork. I think that is absolute nonsense. Squish away I say, get as many different flavors onto that fork as you can.”
We went to the George in Bathampton for roast lamb with mint sauce, and Wong’s Chinese in Barnstaple which was our treat as children.
In Henley we reenacted our picnics at Phylis court. Ploughman’s lunch with our Mr Men books until an angry swan bit my cheek and ran off with the bread. We included the footage of the assault.
The last day of our trip we sat on a grassy hillside in Devon, after filling 2 buckets with blackberries and eating as many between us. Teeth stained black.
We took our footage back to our office and I set to editing.
Eventually we had twelve episodes, then fourteen. Then more. But we couldn’t stop. We were addicted. Everything was a possible cooking show episode. A baseball game became how to make a REAL hotdog. The movies was how to make different flavored popcorn and sneak wine into the auditorium without being caught – ‘a movie without wine is like a day without sunshine’. The beach was how to make ice cream, and how to keep it cold so it would stand up to the long trek down to the water’s edge with time enough to set up the EZ up tent and deck chairs. “In England people like to sit in their cars on the waterfront, in California we bring tents and set up camp for the day.”
Everyday I checked my emails as most people do. More and more often I was sent a link to some Utube thing I absolutely must see. Even my dance teacher was putting our dance routines on Utube so we could look and practice. I suggested to my sister, “let’s just see what happens if we put one of our episodes on Utube, then email the link to everyone in our address books, then with any luck they will forward it on”.
It was too easy. One click more or less and it was live! It was exhilarating at first. Nerve racking. Over the course of a few days friends started to email back, that they had watched it and loved it and they had linked to it on their Facebook page.
This was incentive enough to post another episode. Oh gosh, they were out there. More and more people were seeing them. I googled ‘becoming two fat ladies’ and there we were. There we were! A link to all our Utubes. Then we were on everyone’s twitter pages, and on everyone’s facebook pages.
The feeling was addictive. Every day I would run to the computer to see what emails had come in. What comments were being made.
“This is ace. I made that blue berry ding dong last night, it was delish’.
“Great, thanks, will try it too.”
“Those broads are good!”
We continued to shoot more footage. I bought myself a blackberry so I could read any new email that came in when my phone blipped during the night. What to make tomorrow? What to make tomorrow? Perhaps an episode on pickling?
Then one day…the first negative comment,
“F,,,ing shite. Their food stinks. Made the dumplings. Shat my pants.”
O.K so it was only one person. They probably had dirty finger nails, but it didn’t slow us down – much.
Lots of great comments.
“Loved those macadamia cookies. The best!”
Then again, “tell those broads they are shite. If they don’t shut up I’ll burn down their house, that will stop them cooking”.
That did make us stop. At night when my phone blipped I wouldn’t read the emails, even though I couldn’t bring myself to switch off the phone. Suddenly every noise was that person trying to get in and burn my lovely little house, in my ordinary middle class perfectly manicured neighborhood, where there was no crime and we all knew our neighbors.
I stopped making the shows but the Utubes were out there.
“It’s probably only one person” I kept telling myself.
Then the phone rang and the caller said nothing. My phone had a gps tracker on it so I could find my daughter any time. Did the caller know where I lived?
“F…ing useless granola. Are those broads dead yet?”
My sister was equally scared. We thought about moving house. But why and where could we go? We couldn’t take the shows off the air. We couldn’t get the police involved. People were entitled to their own opinions.
I stopped cooking. I stopped eating.
“Fantastic tortilla soup, thanks girls.”
“Loved the flan”.
“Still cooking? Drop dead, you stole their name, LOSERS”.
Instead I took a holiday. I left my daughter with her father afraid if someone was stalking us, she would be safer with him. We went to France. We rented a villa. I was frustrated by how many cooking excerpts I could have shot while we were there. Fields of lavender and apples. Vineyards.
I tried calling my daughter. I could never get her. Her father never answered the phone. Messages that his ‘mail box is full’.
We started to feel better in the glorious Mediterranean sunshine and decided that although we’d stop with the videos, there would be other fun projects and this time we wouldn’t put them on Utube. We worked out that eventually it would blow over, that whoever loathed us so much would move on to attack someone else. My paranoia started to seep away as I strolled the streets of St Tropez.
Boarding the plane to come back I tried my ex husband again. Still nothing. My anxiety came flooding back. I couldn’t bare the idea of 10 hours on a plane with adrenalin rushing through my veins. (Still I couldn’t help thinking how fun it would have been to make a video about plane food).
“Oh yes my darlings, there is nothing like a stale roll and perfectly squared off processed cheese to help you across theAtlantic”.
I felt an explosion within me, would the turbulence in the air and inside me ever stop?
Once we were finally on the ground, I wanted out of the airport as fast as I could. I even insisted I didn’t want to wait for my luggage, but my sister smacked me and told me to snap out of it.
Driving home I insisted on going straight to my ex’s apartment. I had to know if my little girl was fine.
I knocked on the door, she answered. I scooped her up.
“Why didn’t you answer the phone, or my texts?” I asked my ex.
“Oh drop dead”, he said, “I don’t need to answer to you any more.”
As I left, with my daughter in hand the words ‘drop dead’ kept ringing in my ears. “Drop dead’. Suddenly it occurred to me, could that one person who had plagued my life with fear so intensely these past weeks actually be him?
I told my sister, “look he seems so nonchalant over the break up, do you really think so?”
I spent all my time with my daughter. I had missed her.
“Can we do another cooking video?” she asked one day while we were peeling potatoes. “Daddy likes watching them”.
A chill went over me. It was him. It had been him all along. I was relieved on one hand but horribly afraid on the other. Why had he become so poisonous? It had been a few years now. Would he ever move on? I went out with friends and talked to them about it. My neighbor was a shrink. She said ‘he doesn’t pay you anything. You keep her with you as much as you can. He needs to grow up and move on. It is not your problem”.
As the months passed, things were quiet. No more frightening messages but also no more cooking shows. I missed them. My sister did too. Sitting at the edge of the pool one day watching my baby swim, I had an epiphany. Slow in coming and cliqued I know, but I decided he was not going to control what I did with the rest of my life.
I went inside and immediately applied to be on the fall season of “The next food Network Star”.
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