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.


The Ashkenazi culture and cuisine


My experience of South Africa
Claudia Roden Writer
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

In South Africa, I had a magnificent experience. I was there invited by a magazine to demonstrate cooking and to be there at big events in hotels that were going to do a talk and a dinner out of my books. And so, when I went to one of them, in Cape Town. Somebody called at the hotel to say, 'I know you're here', and 'Would you like to come for Sunday lunch at my house? I am Elsie Menashe'. And I went. My children afterwards said, 'You are always scared when we go away, about what's happening to us. But what about you, going to people you don't know at all'. And so, I went there and her mother... they were Jews of Rhodes, the Greek Island of Rhodes. And they had gone from Rhodes to Rhodesia. And after Rhodesia, they had come to Cape Town. And her mother was going to cook. They were very rich; they had a big house and she had three cooks helping her. But she cooked the Judaeo-Spanish dishes of Rhodesia. And she eventually wrote a book as well. Or she was about to publish it when I came. And she had invited with me, food writers. Food critics. Journalists. A few, not many.

I mean we were just a small group around the table. And they were absolutely... couldn't understand what all these dishes were. And so, she was explaining. And suddenly her mother, who was probably my age now, or more, just got up, and started singing. And she started singing in a heart-rending way. Singing in Judaeo-Spanish. In Greek. In French. And these people were saying, where are you from? And they had known that she'd come from Rhodesia to South Africa. And all of a sudden, what is all this. So, the songs were songs about... really, because all these Judaeos, they are songs of love and loss. And hatred, and people dying and so, she was sort of remembering everything. And afterwards, Elsie Menashe told me she never sang. It's the first time she sang. And she did all these dishes. And we were eating them. And that triggered her. Why? I don't know. But there you are. And then I've got her book in my study. And it's beautiful. She self-published it with beautiful photographs. And I adored her from the start. Because in Egypt there was a girl called Elsie Menashe who was a swimmer in my club. She was a bit older than me, and I admired her. And there was another Elsie Menashe. Menashe was a Sephardi name. And so, there was the kind of experiences that built up.

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: South Africa, Cape Town, Rhodesia, Rhodes

Duration: 4 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023