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What motivates me


The hostile librarian in Beirut
Claudia Roden Writer
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There was going to be a big party, a celebration, given by the library in Beirut, in their home, but it was for the award of novelist or a writer that they gave every year. And this year, I was very surprised to know who the winner was. But the party was also for me very moving. Because they were already great friends whom I really loved. And at the dinner I found that the person who won was a critic really, and a person who wrote many books, but he also wrote about collecting books and about reading books. Which was unusual. And he was a Jew from Argentina, who left Argentina early on, as a young person, when there was all the horrible political situation. And he went to live in the South of France. And I thought, how strange, yes, to meet there. And they knew, of course, he was Jewish, and it really showed that when it's people, people don't care about ethnicity. And personal relationships are always good between Muslims and Jews and Christians if it can be. It can be.

The librarian was to me a little bit hostile. Because I sat near her, just for a few minutes, I think. Or rather for a little while. But she said, 'Why is it that you Jews want to be different? Why did you write a book of Jewish food, why was your food different here in Lebanon? Why was there Jewish food?' And then I said, 'I've just discovered that you have at least a dozen different cuisines from all your minorities'. They all have, the Armenians too. The Druze, everybody has different food. And why not us? So, really that is what somebody there said in French to me, 'ca lui a bouché un coin', it blocked a hole in her. Bouché is like... it's a phrase that I can't explain, it means, 'You shut her up'. Because all the others were telling her off. They kept telling her off. Just say, you know that. So, they were all on my side.

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

Duration: 3 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023