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The Oxford Symposium of Food and Cookery


The festival of Turkish food
Claudia Roden Writer
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I had asked to go, when I heard that there was a conference on cuisine in Konya, I said can I go to Konya. And I went to Konya because I was told not only there was a conference, but there was a festival. And I thought that sounds great. But unfortunately when I arrived it had finished. But the people who organised it treated me to dinners, once I was there. They were a family who ran the Cultural Association of Konya. And the Tourist Office. And they were very keen for me to know all about what they were doing. They were doing a whole lot of marvellous things, like troubadour festivals and rose festivals and festivals where you went on horseback and dragged sheep and fought over the sheep, and all that. For me, quite fascinating. But they said, 'If you're interested in recipes' – which is what I asked always – 'go and see my sister'. She had helped them, but she had gone to Izmir to stay with her mother. The mother was living in Izmir. And so, I went there. But she didn't speak English, and I didn't speak Turkish. But we somehow managed to communicate, I don't know how.

But when I was in Izmir, I had arranged to see a kitchen in a hotel where they were going to make the speciality called manti, which ravioli with meat inside in a Turkish sauce and a Turkish sauce on top, plus another hot sauce on top of that, dribbled on. And when I went, they said, 'I'm sorry, she can't come. Because we don't accept women. And we accept you because you're a foreigner, and you're writing as a journalist about us, but she can't come'. But then I said, 'Well, if she can't come, I'm not coming'. So, she came. But it turned out that she really was a person that, until now, has made everything about Turkey for me of huge valuable importance. Because when I was talking to her brothers, I had said, 'What a pity I missed the conference', but anyway, the conference was in Turkish. It was about the history of Turkish food and also the festival was people from the villages coming to bring their different foods. Their dishes, and they had a competition about the best thing. And I told them, 'Why don't you do something in English'. And I know lots of people who'd love to come.

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: food festival, Konya, manti, cuisine, conference

Duration: 3 minutes, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023