Peter Buckroyd reviews Rosemary Shrager, Cookery and Other Ingredients, Stratford Play House, 29th April
What you see is what you get and it’s the same Rosemary Shrager at the Stratford Literary Festival as it is on television, radio, cookery programmes and the Real Marigold Hotel.
She is honest, straightforward, passionate, bossy (as she said herself) and above all a delightful and entertaining speaker. There was a real sense in which she was engaged in a conversation with the audience.
She said that she is a good teacher and you can tell that in her descriptions of how to make several dishes. Although she expressed her maxim ‘I do exactly what I want’ she also demonstrated what she called the importance of thinking about other people and the ability to laugh at herself. Her empathy was unusual and heart-warming from a chef.
It’s perhaps because of the problems which she has encountered, survived and triumphed over – bulimia, bankruptcy and being penniless, the loss of her husband and children – and her determination to look forward when she found herself with nothing in her late 40s – that she is able to be a role model for so many different kinds of people.
The hour slipped by as she summarised her upbringing, career, different aspirations (painting, architecture, interior design, performing, acting) but her passion for cookery was self-evident, from her childhood with seasonal fresh produce from the garden to how to deal with mango powder and oyster juice.
Rosemary has no intention of retiring. Good for her. She has too much to offer others, even on occasions like this, to retire.