For more than five decades Claudia Roden has transcribed the food of the Levant and the rest of the Mediterranean for the English speaking world. Today in the U.S. and the U.K., we take for granted that we can find hummus, tahini, preserved lemon, and pomegranate at our neighborhood grocery. But when Roden first wrote about these things in her 1968 debut, “A Book of Middle Eastern Food,” she had to explain what they were. Her impact has grown with every book, recipe, and article she has written since. Chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi credit Roden as their culinary inspiration and last December, Queen Elizabeth II named Roden Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her service to literature.
In her wide-ranging conversation with Asif strategic advisor Mitchell Davis, Roden shared how she went from an art student to cookbook author and why she spent 16 years writing one of her most important titles “The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey From Samarkand to New York.” She also shared her inspiration for her latest book “Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean: Treasured Recipes from a Lifetime of Travel,” the titles she included on her bookshelf in the Asif Library and the dishes on the “menu of her life.”
Watch the complete conversation below.