Food Studies Centre

Ms Claudia Roden

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Key information

Roles
Food Studies Centre Honorary Fellow
Department
Food Studies Centre

Biography

Claudia Roden is the author of ten popular and critically-acclaimed cookery books, including: A Book of Middle Eastern Food; Coffee; Picnic: The Complete Guide to Outdoor Food; Mediterranean Cookery; The Food of Italy; The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present Day; Claudia Roden’s Invitation to Mediterranean Cooking; Tamarind and Saffron: Favourite Recipes from the Middle East; Arabesque: Sumptuous Food from Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon; and The Food of Spain.

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Claudia Roden - A Life Writing About Food

Research interests

Claudia Roden was born to Jewish parents in Cairo, Egypt in 1936. After attending lycée in Paris for three years, she moved to London at the age of 18 to study art at St. Martin’s. Her parents left Egypt in 1956, after the Suez crisis, and joined her and her two brothers in London. After leaving St. Martin’s and working and raising her children, she began collecting recipes from relatives and friends, and writing about food and cookery, as a way of reconnecting with her own heritage.

She is the author of ten popular and critically-acclaimed cookery books, and numerous re-editions. Her first book, entitled A Book of Middle Eastern Food, published in 1968 (and reprinted by Penguin in 1970), revolutionised Western attitudes to the cuisines of the Middle East and North Africa. Her intensely personal approach, and her passionate appreciation of the dishes, introduced readers to a new world of foods, both exotic and wholesome. The book was a best seller, and received great critical acclaim, leading to a substantially expanded new edition in 1986. The work’s influence was recognised in 1992, when she received the Glenfiddich Trophy “In celebration of a unique contribution to the food that we eat in Britain today”. In 2010, the book was inducted in the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame in the United States for the influence it has had on food there.

She continued to write about food in the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, Italy, and Spain, with a special interest in the social and historical background of cooking. In 1977, she published Coffee, which was followed in 1982 by Picnic: The Complete Guide to Outdoor Food. Then came the BBC television series, Mediterranean Cookery with Claudia Roden, and the accompanying book, Mediterranean Cookery, published in 1987 with expanded re-editions in 2003 and 2006. This was followed by the Sunday Times series, The Taste of Italy and a book entitled The Food of Italy, published in 1989. Her next work, The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present Day (published in the United States in 1996 and in the UK in 1997), featured the cooking of communities around the world and won eight international awards. Her latest books are Claudia Roden’s Invitation to Mediterranean Cooking, which came out in 1997; Tamarind and Saffron: Favourite Recipes from the Middle East, published in 2000; Arabesque: Sumptuous Food from Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon, which came out in 2005; and The Food of Spain, which was released in 2012.

Over the course of her career, she has worked as a “gastronomic foreign correspondent” for several national newspapers; run cookery classes and given seminars and master classes for chefs in several countries; provided menus and recipes for restaurants; and planned menus, with recipes, recipes for Guy’s Hospital in London (which served as a model for other hospitals, including St. Thomas’s). She has served for many years as co-chair of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. And, she is the recipient of numerous honours including a Fellowship, in 2010, at the Institute of Advanced Study, Yale University, and a Life Achievement Award from the Guild of Food Writers.