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The Great Cathedral of Seville


Spain felt like home
Claudia Roden Writer
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I felt more at home in Spain than anywhere else in my travels. And my grandmother was from Istanbul. But her family, like almost all the Jews of Istanbul, had immigrated from Spain. And continued to speak Judaeo-Spanish. And indeed, some of them still do now. And she spoke Judaeo-Spanish. Although she was a teacher of French. She had studied in Paris to be a teacher of French. Her friends were Judaeo-Spanish speakers. And I had heard the language somehow, somewhere. It could have been from lullabies. There were songs, there were also adverbs or proverbs. But also, because I spoke Italian and French, I could be understood. I just went ahead and spoke. And people would say, 'Oh, are you Italian?' Because I used Italian words.

And then, the first time I came to Spain, the first time I came with a BBC television crew, years before, they had prepared a big banquet of dishes. And I looked at a dish and I said, 'Bemuelos'. And somebody there, who was going to be our translator, he said, 'Bunuelos'. I said, 'Yes'. Because now they call it bunuelos. And the Jews kept an old way. And so, for me, it was... and throughout my travel in Spain, all the time, just a taste, a smell, a word somebody said, just for me brought huge emotions. Because it reminded me of my world in Egypt. And it was who I was as well. We weren't just Arab Jews. We were Sephardi Jews as well.

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: Spain

Duration: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023