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A bowl of different lentil soup


The poor villages in Egypt
Claudia Roden Writer
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I did go to the big hotels to see what is it that you're cooking. And they were saying, 'Look, we're trying to find good Egyptian dishes', but all the chefs... all the head chefs in all the hotels, were either Swiss or Austrian or German. And all the cooks were also Swiss trained. Not the main cook, sorry. It's the head chefs and the top chefs. But all the local chefs recruited locally were from villages. They were very poor. They had no idea; they knew their mothers cooking but they thought nobody would want to eat that. They didn't think it was anything that they could tell. And so, they couldn't really have information about that. But they wanted, yes, to try and do better. And so, I will often tell the story that I decided to see what they do in villages. Because nowadays, village food and peasant food is fashionable in the West. And I thought, let's see what they do in villages. And so, I went and stopped in villages and the villages were poor. One of them... there really was mud houses made out of mud or something. Maybe a bit more than mud, with bricks of some kind. But I was walking in one of the villages, and people were looking at me, wondering what is this person doing. Because the tourists all go on the river boats. They all come out en masse. In special places where there are antiquities. 

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: Egypt

Duration: 2 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023