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The great cuisine of Gaziantep


The English Festival of Creativity
Claudia Roden Writer
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From then on, every time I've gone to Turkey, she wouldn't allow me to come if I didn't... I usually stay in hotels because I'm invited by somebody for something. For instance, there was an English Festival of Creativity where Britain's Tom Parker Bowles organised a big trip of creativity and he asked me if I could come. It was people who were doing cars. And also, technology. It was the creativity of England. But he wanted to do something about creative food of England. And he said, 'Can you deal with that? Can you talk about that?' And when I saw what they brought, those creative cooks... They were a little mozzarella ball on a toothpick with a little baby tomato. And I thought, oh no, this is not it. But there were people who brought smoked salmon and brought some special things, produce of England, that was good. They had wanted to do an event together, the Turkish chefs there with the English chefs, to use what the English chefs brought. The Turkish chefs didn't want that. They said, 'We don't know that'. So, the English chefs did their thing with their mozzarella and tomato and stuff. And also, some really Middle Eastern inspired things, but hardly. But then he said, 'We asked for a big hall to have a conference on the creative food of England'. I said, 'I'm not the one to do it', I had told him long before. He said, 'Well, you arrange a conference on Turkish food'. And so, I started phoning Nevin, she was coming anyway just to be with me at the thing. A chef who had started doing Ottoman Cuisine, the refined dishes of the Ottoman Empire. And a woman who is called Aylin Tan, who also a great friend. She had been coming to the Oxford Symposium and she had been a scholar. She was an architect but then became a food scholar. And then another one who knew about what young innovative chefs were doing in Turkey.

And so, a lot of Turks came. All the people, except Nevin, could speak English. So, they would speak English. But when Nevin came, all the Turks stood up and clapped. And when she took us and Tom Parker Bowles and everybody else, with Aylin Tan, to the spice market, there were spice merchants who came and kissed Nevin's hand. Because she had brought the regional cuisine of Turkey to become valued. She had written actually books that were published. She didn't get any money from the publishing. It was the Tourist Office that published them, but for each region. The Black Sea Region, Izmir, Gaziantep. That region near Syria, they all had different cuisines. And so, that was just a wonderful 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: Tom Parker Bowles, Nevin Halici, Aylin Tan

Duration: 4 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023