Passport Rick Stein: 'Bad food in a country does tend to put me off'
Sunday 17 January 1999
Everybody is so eager to show you places. You get to go to restaurants, see markets, and visit areas that you would normally have to go through a lot of guidebooks to find. So it is a real privilege and it makes you feel very special having something specific to do in a country where everybody else is slopping about in their holiday gear.
The inevitable happened to us in Bombay. We got all the equipment impounded, which is pretty much par for the course in India. I suppose TV crews get a bit blase about moving around these days because it's so common - but in India it ain't.
We were held up for 24 hours and the only way we could get the equipment out of Customs was to get somebody in India to write a letter saying that they had known us for 20 years and that we were jolly nice people. They also had to put up a bond for the value of the equipment, which we estimated to be around pounds 60,000. Bit of a tall order.
In the end, we managed to get the manager of the hotel in Goa where I had been staying for years to do it. I had known him only from staying in his hotel and he had stood bond for us for all that money. It just shows you how very generous people can be.
There are a few places that are my favourites and that I like to visit regularly, namely Australia, France, Italy and Spain and, of course, Goa.
Goa is a bit of a paradise for us. It is a bit squalid, but it is also exotic and colourful and the people there are so wonderful. And, of course, the food is great.
We have just got back from a month-long family holiday in Australia. We've got three teenage sons and the eldest wouldn't normally go away with the family, but they've all got lots of friends out there. They know Sydney better than they know London.
We did some filming in America for the cookery series, and one interesting place was Charleston in South Carolina. It is not a place where people from this country tend to go a lot. Everyone goes to Savannah these days because of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but Charleston is, if anything, even prettier. There is a lot of old colonial architecture left and it is well preserved.
There is this large covered market in the centre and we kept asking what it was used for originally, although we already knew the answer. Of course it was a slave market, but nobody would tell us outright. It would be a bit difficult to sell it as a tourist attraction, really.
We found a seafood shack on Bowen's Island, off Charleston, that had brilliant seafood. They were roasting oysters on a wood fire and it was exactly what we were looking for.
There are probably places in the world where I can't hack the food, but I tend to go where I know it's going to be good. Bad food in a country does tend to put me off. Although, when I first went to Australia about 30 years ago, the food was terrible, but then it was terrible in England, too.
'Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey' is on Tuesdays at 8.30pm on BBC2. The accompanying book is published by BBC Books, and costs pounds 18.99.
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