a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Cosmopolitan Egypt


Our food is our identity
Claudia Roden Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

I was working at Alitalia at their reservations. And speaking Italian. And people would come in and makes a reservation. And also, by phone, on the ground, in the basement, with all Sicilians. We were all laughing, and I was sketching them. But we were doing reservations. But in the evenings, I would see people. Refugees. And ask for recipes. And they were asking us for recipes.

Everybody was saying, 'If you give me a recipe of that, it will be something I will remember you by. Because I might never, ever see you again'. And actually, we never saw them again. Most of them, nearly all of them. We do still see relatives who turn up, but it's mostly their grandchildren. Or their children, who suddenly phone up now and say, 'Can I come and see the family. I am here for a few days. And I've got your telephone number... your email address'.

And so, for me it became my obsession to find recipes. So, I would spend hours asking people for recipes. And they wanted to give them. In Egypt, they wouldn't give any recipe. Because all the families wanted to be known for their best cuisine. And if they give you a recipe, it would have a mistake. So, you never made it as good as theirs. But now, we were all trying to rescue... rescue our culture. Something of our culture that we could still keep. Because everything else, the whole of our worlds, were gone, because who we were was gone. Jews of Egypt were gone. And with all our cosmopolitanism, our ways, there would not be this place again. And so, the food for me was one way, it represented who we were, our identity.

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: recipes, obsession, food

Duration: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023