Interview with Claudia Roden
Technological University Dublin
Claudia Roden is an award winning cookbook writer and cultural anthropologist based in the United Kingdom. She is co-chair with Paul Levy of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. She was born in 1936 in Cairo, Egypt. After completing her formal education in Paris, she moved to London to study at Saint Martin's School of Art. She began her career as a painter, but soon realised following the Suez Crisis that the Jewish food culture of Egypt was disappearing which led her to begin her study of cuisine. Roden is best known for her Egyptian approach to Jewish food found in A Book of Middle Eastern Food (1968) and her magnum opus The Book of Jewish Food—An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to Present Day (1997). Her other works include The Good Food of Italy—Region by Region (1990), Everything Tastes Better Outdoors (1984), Coffee—A Connoisseur’s Companion (1994), Mediterranean Cookery (1992), and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food (2000).
Claudia’s work has received much critical acclaim including the highly respected James Beard Award for the Best Cookbook (1997), the National Jewish Book Award, six Glenfiddich prizes, most notably the 1992 Food Writer of the Year and the Glenfiddich Trophy. She has also been awarded the two most prestigious food prizes in Italy—The Premio Orio Vergani and the Premio Maria Luigia, Duchessa di Parma, and in 1999, Roden was honoured in the Netherlands with a Prince Claus Award “in recognition of exceptional initiatives and achievements in the field of culture.” Roden’s books are respected for their writing as much as for their recipes. Roden always includes ethnography and history of the kitchen and table, genealogy of recipes, dishes and ingredients. Each recipe also contains the story of how Roden attained it and folk tales surrounding the food, often starting with stories of her own childhood. As she says herself, “every recipe tells a story.”
oral history, culinary history, oxford symposium