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The cheapest holidays are sometimes best


Exploring food in Sicily
Claudia Roden Writer
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When I got to the hotel I got a note – in fact, right away – as soon as I arrived, from the Trade Office of Italy, saying don't move, we'll come and fetch you. And what they wanted me to... they fetched me to go and see tomato factories. All their industries. And then I said, 'But that's not what I want. I want recipes. I'm here about your cooking, how am I going to find out'. So, they said, 'Oh yes, there is a teacher of cooking who is a chef as well. And he knows, he'll tell you'.

And so, he came the next day. And he was wonderful, and a young man. And he said, 'I'm taking you to the convent, where the nuns are making pastries'. And he took me to this convent, and they worked. They had made so many pastries, just for me. He had asked them to. And they were still working on them when we arrived. And I was there, always embarrassed about people being over kind, not over kind, but putting them out. And so, I was thrilled with actually seeing them cooking and actually getting recipes. But then I said, 'Can I pay them for having done all this?' He said, 'Forget it. We pay them all the time, we support them'. And I realised who the... we were.

When... he then said, 'I'm sending you somewhere else', which was on the way. Because I was going to another city. But on the way, he said, 'You'll stay in this hotel where they do fantastic food'. And he phoned them, and he said, 'Give her the bridal suite'. And so, I went there. And I went down to meet the chef. And he said, 'We are making something special anyhow tonight, because we've got today... we've got a special, special event'. And what the event was, was a whole army of men. Not army, but there must have been at least ten men. And I was guessing what their affiliation was. It wasn't a food writers, or food critics thing. It was real Sicilian men, planning and plotting. But the food was sensational.

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: Sicily

Duration: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023