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Turkish artisans


The food of Turkey
Claudia Roden Writer
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When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, many from the Ottoman aristocracy came to Egypt. And some of them married into the Royal Family. But they were our aristocracy. And the foods at the palace was Turkish, Ottoman actually. And so, all the pilaffs and the kebabs and the aubergine dishes and the stuffed vegetables. And the baklavas, all that was food we shared with Turkey. As did most of the countries in the Ottoman Empire. But I think Egypt even more. Because of the way the aristocracy came to Egypt. So, going to Turkey for me was familiar, but it was fantastically exciting to find the dishes on their own soil, by people who did them all the time and at its best.

Turkey was also the best cuisine of the whole Middle East. I shouldn't say the best because Persia was fantastic. If it's part of the Middle East. But Turkey had been an empire for more than 400 years and they had a palace and a cuisine developed in the palace from dishes that came from around the empire, but something new developed in the kitchens of the palace. And when the empire collapsed a lot of the cooks who had been working in the palace, who had been trained and who also cooked for the aristocracy, started open little restaurants that were called serai cooking. And they did mostly kebabs and mezzes.

Claudia Roden (b. 1936) is an Egyptian-born British cookbook writer and cultural anthropologist of Sephardi/Mizrahi descent. She is best known as the author of Middle Eastern cookbooks including A Book of Middle Eastern Food, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food and The Book of Jewish Food.

Listeners: Nelly Wolman

Claudia Roden talking to her granddaughter Nelly Wolman about her life in food.

Tags: Turkey

Duration: 2 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023