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Loving other people's company


I do not want to betray the tradition
Claudia Roden Writer
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When I started collecting recipes, I didn't dream at all of actually either writing a book or become a food writer. It was totally not a thing. It was for us. But because I collected so much, and I had so much information, I just decided, yes. I think it was when my youngest was – I was pregnant with my youngest Anna – that I decided I'm going to turn it into a book. Because I really have piles and piles of papers and papers and papers, of recipes. And in those days, everything was... was handwritten. But I knew from Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson... they were my model on how to write recipes, both of them... And so, I knew from them how to set out a recipe. But I think very much more than them, I did word for word what people told me. Because I wanted to do exactly what was the recipe. I was... It was absolutely the most important thing to follow tradition. I didn't want to invent. In those days nobody invented anyway. Nobody wanted anything invented. And also people who would want my book, they didn't want any invention. They wanted to learn how it was, in countries that they didn't know anything about. Eventually, they wanted the real thing, at the time. It was... now they don't. Now they want invention. They want people's interpretation. They want a twist. They want... they can't ever do a recipe as it is, without a twist. Because they think people don't value it. But for me the real recipe was such a precious thing. And I kept this throughout my career. That it was important for me to get the traditional. And it's my role. This is what I'm doing. Others can invent and I can love what they do. And they're great, but my role, if I do go and discover recipes, in Italy, in Spain, in wherever I go in Morocco, I want to not betray the tradition.

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, tradition, food, invention, twist

Duration: 3 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023