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Family is of most importance


The new Mediterranean cookbook
Claudia Roden Writer
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Then when I was asked by Penguin... they asked me would I do a Middle Eastern Book to choose just a few recipes that I did from my own book. So that they put photographs and make it like a new modern book for a new generation. And I thought about it. I thought, no, my old book is a thing in itself. And I don't want to sort of make it obsolete. And I would like to do a new Mediterranean. Because I felt this is what I cook now. This is what I eat now. This is what... that's what I love. I love Middle Eastern, but Mediterranean is something particular. There is a likeness in it. Because it's around the Mediterranean. And so, I told the publisher, yes, shall I do a Mediterranean. Penguins... and she went and asked the salespeople, and they said no. Afterwards they tried to bid for it, when I finished it. And they said, 'No, she's already done one and we've got her Mediterranean Book'. They didn't want that. They had wanted the Middle Eastern with photographs, with just a few recipes. And so, okay, I'm not going to do it. I'll just do what I want to do.

And I decided, because I had come to my age of 80, that I can't travel as I used to. I still travel. I did travel until December, and... because there are festivals. There are conferences, there are food fairs, there are things I want to go to. And then, I can go, and I just go to the place, and somebody usually fetches me from the airport and takes me back to the airport. So, I haven't got the hassle and the worry and the carrying of suitcases up the hill or something. And so, what can I do? And I just thought, I still want to cook. And I still want people to come around. And also, I need a challenge. Because I need the challenge that keeps my mind. And what can I do? I'm going to do a new Mediterranean. And that's how the book came about. I didn't want a publisher. My agent said, 'Do you want me to find a publisher?' I said, 'No'. When it is ready... because I wanted to do it in my own time. And I wanted to be how I wanted it to be. And I knew that publishers, as soon as you say that you're going to do a book, they say, 'Can you have it by the end of the year?' And no, I just didn't want... I wanted it also to develop out of my life. Out of who we are, I am. How I'm eating now. And also, out of pleasure. I wanted it to be a book not Mediterranean, because it's Mediterranean, I just wanted to be recipes that we choose because of the pleasure that they give. With a different way. I wasn't trying to study cuisine. To put as much as possible of the cuisine. And I didn't want history and the things. I just wanted good food that we're eating here. And so, it also took me five years. That's my usual, except for the Jewish one. 

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: Mediterranean, cookbook, cuisine, publishing, Penguin

Duration: 4 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2022

Date story went live: 04 December 2023