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Bear Grylls: I'm a survivor of mum's dodgy cooking while growing up in Northern Ireland

By Staff Reporter

Published 02/05/2016

Stodgy start: Bear Grylls
Stodgy start: Bear Grylls

Celebrity survivalist Bear Grylls lived on rations-style food when he was growing up in Northern Ireland - because his mother was a "terrible cook".

Born in Donaghadee, Co Down, in 1974, the Old Etonian and TV personality was brought up on the stodgy boiled veg diet then common here.

Grylls, who shot to fame with his adventure series Man Vs Wild, which ran from 2006 to 2011, comes from an upper-crust Conservative and unionist background.

His father was Tory Sir Michael Grylls, one-time MP for Surbiton, and later a junior minister for the Commonwealth and Colonies under Harold Macmillan.

His mother was Sarah Ford, later Lady Sarah Grylls, the daughter of Ulster Unionist MP for North Down Patricia Ford.

Mrs Ford was the first female MP from Northern Ireland, and the first female representing an Irish constituency to take her seat in the House of Commons.

She won the North Down seat in a by-election caused by the death of her father - Sir William Smiles - in the Princess Victoria ferry tragedy in 1953. Grylls told the BBC Good Food magazine that he wasn't keen on Lady Sarah's culinary efforts - though his dad's cooking did impress him.

"My mum was wonderful, but she was a terrible cook. She made British food seem like post-World War Two rations," he said.

"It wasn't quite as bad as Spam, but she would leave a pan of Brussels sprouts stewing for a whole afternoon."

It was while angling with his father that the youngster was able to enjoy a good meal.

"I used to go fishing with my dad a lot," he recalled. "With freshly caught trout, we'd put a knife straight down the spine, flip it over, go under the skin and then pan-fry it. Beautiful.

"Then we would get a load of tomatoes, blend them, add some olive oil and serve that over the fish. It was amazing."

Last week Grylls announced dates for his first live arena show - it comes to the SSE Arena in Belfast on October 18.

During the show Bear will guide the audience on a journey, uncovering true life stories of survival from frozen Antarctica and the cruel winds of Everest, to humid jungles and shark-infested waters.

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