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The grand dinner in T├ętouan


Women in cookery schools
Claudia Roden Writer
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I went to a cookery school. At that time as well, where they were teaching young women, yes, because young women are still the chefs now, to be professional cooks. They are not all blacks, but many are descendants from these women who came as slaves. And some are mixed race. Because they'd married into the community. And they were being taught by... some of them were old dadas who were teaching them how to do the home cuisine but how to make it possible for a restaurant. And actually it was the men now, they were also, those same women, the dadas, the older generation, before the young women that I saw in the cookery school. The cookery school was actually in the palace grounds.

The king had wanted a cookery school because he wanted proper chefs in hotels. And the women in the generation before, when I first went, had formed themselves as caterers. In cooperatives. And they went to cook for weddings, for all kinds of receptions and parties, and they came with their pots and pans and things. But it was always a man who organised them, and the man was the manager, and he discussed the money, how much each would be paid, how much to charge. He also ordered the pots and pans, and he ordered the produce. And so the weddings were usually in two different houses, or in two different places. Because the women had their wedding separate – where they danced, and they did things – and the men were in another house. But sometimes, the women themselves, not the cooks, but their employers, cooked too. They helped to do the little pastries. And they got together and cooked together that it was part of the fun thing as well. So, the cuisine that was passed in families through these women now is a cuisine that you'd get in grand restaurants and grand hotels.

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: dadas, women, home cooking, cookery school, cuisine, weddings, chefs

Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023