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Collecting recipes on trains


Financing my trips as a single mother
Claudia Roden Writer
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Because I took so long for the research, and I only had £2,000 of advance, I had to finance my trips. And that's why I was so glad when I got invitations. And I got the invitations, for instance, jobs in particular. And the money I earned from working for magazines paid for my travel. I still supported my children, although they were at university. And the older ones supported themselves, in New York. They had gone to New York. And later, they earned money. My children were really very seriously feeling that I had struggled. And they believed in earning as quickly as they could. And they did, even by doing odd jobs in supermarkets. So, I had to really fund myself more. And so, this is what I did.

And as I told you earlier, I didn't care about earning money from my first book. But once I had my children to support, a magazine whom I had worked for before, and I just said, 'I don't mind how much you pay'. I suddenly said, 'No, you have to pay me double'. And why I said double, is because my cousin in Paris who was the French journalist who was Middle Eastern editor of La Monde had come here. And he asked me, 'How much do they pay you?' And then he told me that what happens in France, and what happened to him. He took part, as a journalist, to do little books about different subjects for a series in French. And he found that he and the men got twice as much as female writers. And he said the female writers were better than me. He said it, maybe he didn't quite mean it. But they were eminently knowledgeable. And experienced and specialised, but they got half. And so, he said, 'Just ask double. And you are the only one who can write it because there's nobody in England who can write about the Middle East'. It was healthy food of the world. I had to deal with the whole Middle East. And so, when I told them – the editor then of the Sunday Times – double, and he said, 'What transformed you into dragon woman?' I said, 'Because I am a single mother now'. And so, that's it. And I had to keep earning and I earned in every possible way. I even went to Paris to magazine for chefs and I went and had an appointment, and I had the several the editor and the salesperson of the magazine. And I said, 'I can write to you about the Middle East. I can write to you; I am an English food writer'. And they said, 'Well, in that case, can you do a book about cooking for cats and dogs'. Because the word English for them... they just laughed. They didn't give me a job. But I really worked really hard.

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: money, finances, trips, single mother, female writer

Duration: 4 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023