Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Oddysey
August 21, 2009 2 Comments
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?