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Rada Salaam's complicated recipe


Learning why my tabbouleh was wrong
Claudia Roden Writer
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In my father's time, the people in the villages needed to fill themselves. So, I was told by somebody who wrote me a letter from Saudi Arabia to say that I had a wrong recipe for tabbouleh in my first Middle Eastern Book, because it had too much bulgur. And he explained to me that it was when the people in the mountains needed something substantial to eat. But since it's become a food of the... it was adopted by all restaurants as a mezze, it became more and more and more just parsley and mint with very little bulgur. So, somebody wrote to me that long ago... but I did improve a bit on the second version on my first book. But when I saw Kamal do his, I thought, 'Ah, now I've got to do it also'. He would never ever chop the parsley in a blender. He would hit the roof if I told him, 'Do you ever chop it with a machine?' 'No'. And he was showing me how you put the bunch of parsley and you hold it as a bunch, and you cut it. So, that was for me, very important.

But more important than anything I think was these restaurants in, these cafes rather, serving mezzes in Zahle. And it was interesting. There was a painter friend of the Henderson's who came with us. And she was painting all our dishes after we had eaten. It means with all the leftovers. And the fork and the sauce left in the thing and the bread on it. She was sketching them. And she had some paints, and she later did a painting exhibition of that. And I was writing down what we were eating. And we had ordered every possible mezze we could. And so that was really interesting.

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: Zahle

Duration: 2 minutes, 58 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023