Under the Mackerel Sky: A Memoir
Imprint: Ebury Press
Review by Dawn Forbes
Review by Dawn Forbes
Most readers who followed Rick Stein’s television series only know the man who is comfortable in front of the camera, introducing not only fresh food and ways to cook it, but also historical facts about the area he is in, the growing methods and production of the food he is demonstrating and the people who do all the work. That is what makes his programmes worth watching.
After reading his memoir, I have been introduced a man who is much more than that. Some of it good and some of it not so good but everything he has done has been done with energy, daring and commitment.
One of five children (the oldest a half-brother), he grew up on a farm in Oxfordshire, and spent his summer holidays at the family house in Cornwall where he and his father enjoyed fishing off the rocks. His mother was an enthusiastic and competent cook who loved to entertain so both places were often filled with guests and other family members. They did not seem to have to worry about money.
His relationship with his bi-polar father was often tense and difficult and after his suicide, he moved, at eighteen, to Australia for two years working wherever he could, doing whatever he could.
Early schooling was at boarding schools and the last five years at Uppingham public school where he was an indifferent scholar. At 22 he went to Oxford and studied literature. Music has also been an important part of his life and his recall of particular songs at particular times of his life are a feature of this book. He became editor of the undergraduate newspaper, and started a mobile disco which he designed and made himself, and called The Purple Tiger. This eventually led him to open a nightclub in Padstow.
He was a long time coming to the Rick Stein we now know. He describes the difficulties of the early businesses but he always managed to salvage them, to learn something from each one and to move quickly onto the next until he can now boast three restaurants in Padstow, two fish and chip shops, one in Padstow and one in Falmouth, and the old pub his family frequented in his younger days, the Cornish Arms in St Merryn.
Dawn Forbes is an Auckland-based enthusiastic reader, chef and gardener, and a regular reviewer on Beattie's Book Blog