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One cumin seed can tell you the history


Michael Joseph
Claudia Roden Writer
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By then Michael Joseph had a bought a house on top of the hill as well. And he had a girlfriend who had met when they were very young in England. And so, for my time there was fantastic. Because Alicia Rios, the food artist was there with me. And every night he told us his story. His story... he was one of 12 and he was given, or he was left in an estate when he was seven to start working. His first job was looking after the donkeys. Helping the person who was looking after the donkeys. And then he was helping in every way. And then he was there helping when they harvested. They grew many, many things. And there was a cook who cooked for the harvesters. Because the harvesters came once a year for the different harvests. And they came and they came from different parts, mostly gypsies. And also, French people came from France to work as well.

But there was this woman who organised the cooking. And he then told us how it came about. For instance, the gazpacho, those who went into the tomato fields, and they would come, they always worked with the mortar. I've got here a picture of a mortar. A mortar and a pestle. They didn't have any machines of any kind. But just pounded. So, they pounded the tomatoes, they brought some bread with them. They brought some olive oil, and they brought some vinegar, which also the did in the estates. And the pounded and pounded and I did see people pounding in a place in Granada, who were recreating what they had done originally. And they ate it in the field. So, instead of going back home, they did their own cooking on the ground. So, through him I got this life of the particular peasants in that part of Spain. It was different in the north. It was always different.

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, Michael Joseph, Manolo El Sereno, Alicia Rios

Duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023