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Each recipe has a story


Collecting recipes on trains
Claudia Roden Writer
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When I travelled in Italy for instance, of course, the Sunday Times paid. And when I was on my own – well, you know, when I went to South Africa, a magazine paid. But it was a magazine of that place. It was a black magazine, which was unusual. Oh no, actually that was just a woman's magazine in South Africa. But then I did write for a black paper at the time.

But also, let's say how did I travel. I travelled by plane and in countries like Spain I also travelled by train. In Italy, I travelled by train and coaches. And being on the coach, also on the train, I would say to somebody sitting next to me. I never wasted any time. Saying, 'I'm an English food writer, can you give me a recipe? I'm writing for you'. And the person on the train would start giving me a recipe. And they were trains, not compartments. And then, as she finished, somebody at the back would say, I make it differently. And would come and sit down. So, even... for instance, I was on a coach one time in Sicily. And they could tell from, although I speak Italian, they thought I was from Friuli, the place near where my nanny came from, is Slovenia. The villages were near Friuli. Because I said some words that were Friuliani or something. And a woman in Sicily, she said, 'Where are you from?' I said, 'I actually was born in Egypt'. And she said, 'Oh, your king was in love with one of our girls. Rita Hayworth'. There was these kinds of contact, that were sort of mad contacts, but I would say, where do I get off.

But also, I had the kind of experiences that I was on a train, let's say in Turin, going to Turin. And I would say, 'I am looking for recipes of Piemonte' and on the way... no, going to Alba. I was going to Alba to look for recipes with truffles. And recipes with mushroom because I knew it was their speciality. And on the train, there, I would say, 'Where do I go?', and they said, 'Well, go there where they are having a wine tasting', always. Because there's all the wineries there. And they have wonderful events where you eat, and you drink. You don't spit out the wine. You really drink. And they want you to buy the wine obviously, but it's a marvellous place. So, I would go there, but then if you want a restaurant that does, whatever you do, don't go to that restaurant, which all the guidebooks have. Because it's the most fashionable restaurant. We would never go there. And he said, 'What they give you, they give you one raviolo, a flower, and a stone on the plate. And this is nuova cucina'. So, there was a rebellion against nuova cucina at that time. But I still went because I did want to see what that ravioli had inside. But I realised no, it's not my recipes. It's... someone else can do that.

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: travelling, train, recipes, wine, wineries

Duration: 4 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023