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