Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Like much of the rest of the world, I’ve been reading the Keith Richards quasi-autobiography “Life.”   I say “quasi” because he has a great ghost/co writer in James Fox, and because parts of it are oral biography where he simply quotes other people talking about him.
You wouldn’t expect Keith to be much of a foodie, and he’s certainly got no time for fancy-shmancy cooking, but he does CARE about his food.  Not many rock stars, I think are still brooding about school food but Keith’s memories of the Gypsy Tart served up at his infant school in the late 1940s are still fresh and painful.  “It was pie with some muck burned into it, marmalade or caramel ... It wasn’t my idea of a dessert,” he writes, and having refused to eat it he was given lines and had to write out “I will not refuse food” three hundred times.  That’ll set a lad straight. 

Gyspy tart (that's one above) turns out to be a local recipe from Kent, Keith’s native county, made with evaporated milk and brown sugar, and let’s face it, very 1940s post-rationing Britain.  Maybe it wasn’t just the tart he was rejecting.

By 1967, Cecil Beaton (that's him above) was writing in his diary about the Rolling Stones that, “No group makes more mess at the table.  The aftermath of their breakfast with eggs, jam, honey everywhere is quite exceptional.”  Keith quotes this apparently with approval.

Elsewhere there’s Keith recipe for bangers and mash: a pretty ordinary recipe as far as it goes but enlivened by Keith’s real or confected prose style, that includes the direction (re the sausages) “now let the fuckers rock gently.”  And perhaps roll too.

Then there’s some famous nonsense about the back stage shepherd’s pie at a Rolling Stones gig in Toronto on the Steel Wheels.  A shepherd’s pie was delivered to the lounge and some of the security guys ate some it, and when Keith arrived he was furious demanding to know who.  There was still some left, but Keith had to have first pick.  Nobody fessed up and Keith refused to go in stage until a new one had been produced.  The gig was delayed, to Mick Jagger’s annoyance, and I assume everyone else’s, and when the pie arrived Keith just stuck his knife in it (he’s very keen on knives) and then went on stage. 

This story is told in the first person by someone called Tony King who refers to the “pie’s crust,” saying Keith “just wanted to cut the crust,” and Keith agrees with this, “Don’t bust my crust baby,” he says.  But you and I know that a shepherd’s pie doesn’t have crust, it has mashed potatoes, so either this is some unique usage of the word “crust” or the pie was some odd Canadian variation; that’s probably one for future scholars.

And finally Kate Moss is summoned up to tell us that Keith really does do his own cooking.  She says, “Food of the kind he likes is one of the few comforts he has, whereas everything else is all over the shop.”  She tells a rather charmless story of an occasion at Redlands when Keith was making bangers and mash and he chased one of Marlon’s friends with a saber because he’d stolen the spring onions.    “Patti was really worried,” says Kate.  She makes Keith sound like a deranged lunatic, which I suppose was her, and his, intention, and fairly wearisome.  But really, Keith’s very good indeed when he actually talks about music. 

As you’ll have gathered, it’s not easy to find a picture of Keith Richards eating.  Drinking and smoking, sure.  Even on the cover of Beggar’s Banquet (above - you can click on it to enlarge it and see it better) all he’s doing is shoving an apple - or maybe a potato - into Mick’s mouth (go and pick the symbolism out of that one).  But here he is, apparently eating a picture of the queen.  A tasty world!

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