Rick Stein finds that you can’t escape from Brexit – even in Santa Bar­bara

The Guardian - G2 - - Television - By Sam Wol­las­ton

Rick Stein is trav­el­ling down through Cal­i­for­nia, by Mus­tang. Not the wild horse (though there will be horses later), the car. Blue and top­less – the car, not Stein, though if he was top­less he would prob­a­bly be blue, too, today. The Golden State didn’t read the script, it looks more like Black­pool in Novem­ber, grey and dreary. He can’t even take the coast road, be­cause of mud­slides.

It is called Rick Stein’s Road to Mex­ico (BBC2), and he is re­trac­ing a road trip he made in 1968, the year af­ter the sum­mer of love. “I wanted to live a lit­tle bit dan­ger­ously, and I did,” he says. Did you wear flow­ers in your hair, Rick (I’m as­sum­ing there was hair, in 1968)? Did you get high with girls with­out shoes? Do tell! But he doesn’t. In­stead, he stops for a creamy clam chow­der at Pismo beach. And a steak and a glass of pinot noir in Santa Bar­bara, like in Side­ways – a film that Stein loved. In the res­tau­rant from Side­ways, in fact. There will be more on movies later.

Next stop, a citrus grove, where things get po­lit­i­cal. There is no men­tion of you-know-who with the or­ange face, but a lawyer-turned-tan­ger­ine-grower named Mike is very cross about a cer­tain wall that will keep his im­mi­grant work­ers out. “It is so, so dumb,” moans Mike. Stein un­der­stands; he knows for a fact that back home in Corn­wall a lot of daf­fodils would not get picked if it wasn’t for our Euro­pean friends. “And, of course, I think my fish’n’chip shop and cafe would def­i­nitely slow down, so I see that there could be trouble ahead.” You can’t escape from Brexit, even in Santa Bar­bara.

We’re cut­ting back to Pad­stow from time to time, for Stein to try out some­thing in­spired by the road. A clam chow­der, a tan­ger­ine cake, noth­ing too tricky.

Los An­ge­les then, where Stein can muse on its most fa­mous in­dus­try. “The glit­ter­ing prizes and the crash­ing fail­ures; has there ever been any­thing in­vented that has been more po­tent than the movie? I don’t think so.”

He vis­its a fa­mous old Hol­ly­wood res­tau­rant, haunt of stars of today and yes­ter­day. “It’s like go­ing into a fa­mous old church, in a funny sort of way,” says Stein. He sits in Steve Mcqueen’s chair – he loves Steve Mcqueen. And he eats the lambs’ kid­ney with ba­con that Char­lie Chap­lin used to en­joy. Chap­lin used to ar­rive on an ac­tual horse.

Next, a Korean/mex­i­can fu­sion street-food truck for tacos and kim­chi, and then posh again, a chopped salad at an­other starry res­tau­rant run by Gigi (who is not a horse). Back in Pad­stow, Stein recre­ates Gigi’s salad. He chops let­tuce, tomato, cu­cum­ber, moz­zarella, and salami. Got it? Now the dress­ing: oil, vine­gar, mus­tard, salt and pep­per … WTF? Rick Stein is show­ing me how to Rick Stein with Gigi Leon, whose salad he recre­ates on the Road to Mex­ico

make a frig­ging salad dress­ing? Like the last 50 years, and El­iz­a­beth David and Delia Smith, never hap­pened? What’s next? Tune in next week, for toast?

Oh, chick­peas, I for­get, in the salad. Plus, there are two types of let­tuce. Ro­maine, pre­sum­ably for a more pro-europe flavour. And a few ice­berg (vote) leaves, for a bit of Brexit crunch … God that was laboured, and un­skilled – where are all the Euro­pean and Mex­i­can friends when you need them?

Back in the Mus­tang, to San Diego, where Stein vis­its a statue of a sailor kiss­ing a girl on VJ day. It used to be called Un­con­di­tional Sur­ren­der, but the name was changed to Em­brac­ing Peace, which is a lit­tle less dodgy, but doesn’t make it any less hideous. Stein loves it.

And he loves Some Like It Hot, too. Yes, we’re not done with movies yet, even though we’ve moved on from Tin­sel­town. He will of­ten find him­self, in his res­tau­rant, late at night, hav­ing pas­sion­ate con­ver­sa­tions about favourite films. Ci­ti­zen Kane of­ten comes up, but Stein never liked it. Some Like It Hot though, now there’s a film. And now he gets to go to the ho­tel where Billy Wilder filmed a lot of it. For a drink, and to quote a cou­ple of favourite lines. “Tony Cur­tis is tak­ing off Cary Grant, and Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe says to him [do­ing his Mar­i­lyn]: ‘Isn’t wa­ter polo very dan­ger­ous?’ And he says [do­ing his Tony Cur­tis do­ing his Cary Grant]: ‘Yes it is, I’ve had two ponies drown on me al­ready’.”

More horses, see? Any­way, it’s un­canny; close your eyes and they’re there, Tony and Mar­i­lyn. Also, Steve Coogan, Rob Bry­don, check the rearview mir­ror, Rick Stein’s com­ing for you, in a con­vert­ible Mus­tang.

Next week, he is go­ing over the bor­der into Mex­ico, be­cause Rick likes it hot too. And maybe he’ll tell us about the dan­ger­ous stuff he did, back in the day.

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