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Suitcase full of fashion


Discovering French cuisine and wine
Claudia Roden Writer
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But in Paris also... My older brother had come to live in Paris for a year to do medicine for one year. And he was living in a little hotel. In those days they were full of students, the hotels. They had a toilet outside on the landing. They couldn't shower, they would have to go to a bath house. But now they are boutique hotels. But then I used to stay... for one year I used to stay and hang around the Latin Quarter where he was, every weekend. And I used to sleep... I would get a room where I could sleep only at night. Because it was rented during the day for couples. And I had to quickly get all my things out and my toothbrush and all that, in the morning.

Yes, for me Paris life... but also the food. The food for me, it was discovering another kind of food from what I had known in Egypt. Perhaps I should tell you a bit about what I had known in Egypt. Why? Whether, even though we had a cook, that we did know how to cook. Because we entertained a lot. And when we entertained, some aunts would come and bring their cooks as well. And while the cooks were preparing, prepping really, peeling, cutting up, sometimes deep frying, hollowing vegetables, some, the aunts, and my mother, and myself, I would always be around the table. Would do the little delicacies. Like the stuffed vine leaves. And the phyllo triangles, stuffed with cheese. And so, I used to do a little... I was made to roll a little snake and make it into a little coil. So, it became like a tiny bracelet. And then I would dip it in sesame seeds and then it was baked. And another thing I always did was ground almonds rolls. Where it was just ground almonds and sugar and rosewater. And I would roll it into a ball. And then put a pistachio on top. So, these were... I had this idea that cooking and food was pleasurable, very early on.

But in Paris, then the discovery of French cuisine and at school we did get three course meal. It could be very simple. Like, the first course would be radis beurre, radishes and butter with some salt. And then, or else salami. It could be an easy thing. Or it could be boiled egg with mayonnaise. Or it could be a celeriac, grated celeriac. But also, really proper home cooking meal. And we always had wine. And even the children who were there, who were five, got wine. So, it was sort of also a discovery of wine. And at boarding school we were, all of us, from Vietnam, from Morocco, from Tunisia, from all around our group tables, and we had fun. Like mixing all the food together to make a disgusting, throwing food. But it was a fun time.

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: hotel, food, cooking, family time, phyllo triangles, French cuisine, wine

Duration: 4 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 26 November 2023