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Lebanese pastries and rosewater


Discovering the food of Lebanon
Claudia Roden Writer
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When I emailed him to say I was going to Lebanon, to research Arabesque, he said, 'Okay, I'll find you a place to stay'. Actually, it was a hotel. 'And I'll take you around'. And so, he was there at the airport. And then he gave me the most incredible trip which was all gastronomical. And he had a television programme which he co-hosted, and he did vegetarian dishes although he wasn't particularly vegetarian. But he was talking about health and we, together, did a Jewish dish. He was very proud to say, 'Claudia has done a Jewish cookbook. And we are doing a Jewish dish'. And then he had invited two young Palestinian woman from a Palestinian refugee camp who were part of a cooperative of farmers, farming women. Who came to show us what they did. And so, they came.

I was incredibly excited. They came with lentils on a plant. I never imagined lentils growing on a plant. So, they came with the lentils, and they came with lots of foods that were wild, that they foraged and foods they were making. And foods that they made. And the foods that they made... one was a kind of yoghurt porridge. It means yoghurt with bulgur. And with herbs that they grew, that was wonderful. And the other thing they made... what did they make, I forgot. They made a few things that were extremely good. I think a tomato paste with tomatoes that they dried. But also, another dish and... so, it was so wonderful. We were in the green room, and we went out there and we were eating all this in front of the camera. And so, that was lovely. And he took me to many restaurants where they were very often treating us, because of him. Because he was a food writer as well as a chef. And he had started a farmers' market in Beirut. It was in Beirut that he came to fetch me and where I stayed. And he had got farmers to grow special things as well. And ask them to.

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: Lebanon, Kamel Muzawak

Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023