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The English Festival of Creativity


Food revolution in the Turkish Embassy
Claudia Roden Writer
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Also, I had the experience that my cousin, Eric Rouleau had become the French Ambassador in Turkey, and I had been invited at the Turkish Embassy to stay with him, when there was the anniversary of De Gaul. I came to help him – he had just divorced. His wife had left. And so, he needed somebody to come and help him. And when I was there, we had a big party and they had all French food, but that was right because it was all Turks who came. But I asked him could I ask Nevin to come and stay, and he said okay. But when he saw her, somebody with a turban and a long dress, he said, 'No, no, why did you bring her?' But when I told him that she was the great person of cooking, he said, 'Well, she can do something for me. She can get the cooks in the embassy to make Turkish food'. Because all the French people come to stay all the time at the embassy, and they want Turkish food. And they do bad French cuisine.

And so, when she came, we went in the kitchen, and she had a pad and a pencil. And I first told the chefs. The chefs said, 'We don't want to do Turkish cuisine because this is a French embassy'. And they had learnt French cuisine. And I said, 'You must do Turkish cuisine, because Turkish cuisine is what the French want when they come here. They don't want your French cuisine'. And so, they said, 'We don't know what to do'. And so, I said, 'Nevin, you tell them'. So, in Turkish she told them how to do canapes. Mezzes, little canapes for when it's a party. How to do a formal dinner. A grand affair for people who have come from France, for instance who come to sell their stuff. The perfumes and the clothes and the culture and all that. And for a simple dinner for the ambassador and his friends, this is what you do. And she had the recipes in her mind. And she wrote them. And it was the most incredible thing.

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: Nevin Halici, Eric Rouleau

Duration: 3 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023