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My nanny


Slovenian nannies in Egypt
Claudia Roden Writer
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A few years ago, I forgot how long ago, it was after the Jewish Book, but I got an email through my agent who said, 'I saw in your Jewish Book you have a recipe for potizza. And you say it's different from the one your nanny cooked. You also, in your Italian Book...' – somebody had read my Italian Book – 'you have a recipe of Friui, and you talk about Friuli saying your tenderness and affection for that region because your nanny was a Slovene from a part of Italy that became Friuli and that she came from...', I don't know if I put the name of the village. No, I didn't, but it was near Trieste, I said. And she said, 'I am from a group of women who want to find out about our grandmothers. About their life in Egypt, who were nannies'. And 'Can you tell me who was your nanny?' 'I know her name but was she married? Did she have children? What village did she come? Did she have any relatives in Egypt? Where did they come from? Who were they? What did she teach you?' And then at the end she wrote, 'Did you love her?' And I wrote, 'Did we love her? We adored her! I've got right now her photograph on my bedside table. She was so much for us'.

And so, well, I had a visit from a woman from Slovenia. Whose grandmother had been in Egypt. And she said... she told me about the story how when the Suez Canal was built. A lot of Slovene women from Slovenia were then had gone to Trieste to work because they were peasants. And then the businessmen of Trieste were opening offices in Alexandria. And they were bringing their families in Alexandria and their nannies. And so, nannies started going with Italians from Trieste to Alexandria. And then others started to come, it was the one place where they could earn money to send home.

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: Friuli, Egypt, Slovenia

Duration: 3 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023