Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Oddysey

I must confess it was with a heavy heart that I anticipated the most recent series of travelogue/cookery programme/Rick Stein show, Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey
. Much as I cannot usually resist a food show (although, please read my review of Economy Gastronomy for an example of one that will not be troubling me again), I was worried after his Mediterranean series that I would not be able to face any more of him. There was never anything wrong with Mediterranean Escapes, or whatever it was called, in terms of food. The food is always delicious – and translates well onto screen and the printed page. The photography is always good, the locations are often stunning. They always seem to find interesting local people and stories to talk about. So far, so deserving of a lucrative series travelling around the world in comfort, cooking and eating.

The problem is for me, is that Rick Stein can be a little..Pompous? Condescending?.. I don’t even know the word. The problem is the presenter, anyway. All through his Mediterranean Escapes programme he would refer to simple, traditional dishes as ‘Poor People’s food’ Not Peasant food, as it has been generally accepted, but ‘Poor People’s’. I don’t know why it got my goat to the extent that it did – although maybe the regularity of which he used this phrase seemed to top three of four times an episode sometimes, but probably more because it is an inaccurate term. We all know what we mean when we say ‘Peasant’ and I don’t think we describe people as peasants any more, anyway. Poor People though. Poor People’s food, Ricky, is not fresh fish and meat, delicious vegetables and uncomplicated clean sauces to your audience. It is Macca D, Pot Noodle and frozen mini kievs. And the worst thing is, that these words are tumbling regularly out of the mouth of a man who is indisputably well off. So yes, I found that to be quite irritating. And even in this series, to an extent, there is something cringe worthy in the way he discusses poverty. Rick doesn’t understand poverty, and although I completely understand he feels the need to provide context, I think it would be a better thing for the programme if he just shut up about it. We know people in Bangladesh are poor. We get it. There is nothing to celebrate about poverty. Poverty may be interesting to a white, middle aged man who has had a privileged life. To the poor though, its fairly boring. So stop it.

Otherwise it was a triumph. The episode, set in Bangladesh, kicked off with a Biryani factory – as Biryani is one of my desert island dishes, this pleased me, immensely and just rocked on with curries galore, khatta, (sour freshwater fish curry), vegetable curry, fish & potato curry, johl (more fish curry – there’s a lot of fishing in Bangladesh) and curried fish in banana leaf & salad. One of the nice things about Rick’s shows, is you can often watch the countrymen (although more often women) making the dinner and you get a real sense of what is going on. But the best thing about his shows, is that the countries he visits are presented in such a way that you want to go there immediately – or maybe its just me?

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2 Responses to Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Oddysey

  1. Tim says:

    Having read the first two paragraphs, I could not bear anymore. Yes, Rick Stein may be pompous in his choice of words, but the whole point is that MacDonald’s, Pot Noodles and chicken kievs are the food not of poor people, but lazy people, and when I say people, I mean British.
    What Rick Stein is trying to convey is that even with a limited supply of money, and I know as I am a student surviving on bare minimal, a healthy diet can still be managed. And as support for his arguement, he is turning out attention to other countries around the world, which have different cultures and hold different ideals.
    It would seem that you are in fact too close minded to appreciate this, and are better equipped to judge with prejudice, rather than learn with compassion. Perhaps it is guilt derived from your personal disrespectful and condescending opinions of the ‘poor people’ which are pouring through your post – or maybe it’s just me?

  2. Greedy Rosie says:

    Yes, Tim, it IS just you.
    I too have been utterly skint and I appreciate what a challenge healthy eating can be.

    However, the rich do not shop in Iceland. The middle classes do not stock up on Pot Noodle.Rick Stein does not feed his kids out of the kebab shop every night.
    I have travelled in many ‘poor’ countries and yes, I have also noticed what Rick Stein talks about. The only difference is, I just find it a bit distressing when I’ve met people who have to live on less than 30p a month and have to send their kids out to work and don’t find it particularly entertaining to discuss.

    I don’t think you have grapsed what he is conveying at all – but perhaps that is guilt derived from your own personal disrespectful and condescending opinions. You should look into projection – I guess you’re studing neither English not Psychology.

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