Lunch with high priestess of kitchen Claudia Roden
Food maven talks about some culinary experiences and fantasies.
1. For my last meal on earth I’d like to eat:
Sauteed foie gras accompanied by quince preserve, followed by a Catalan seafood pasta and, as dessert, raisin and sweet wine ice cream.
2. An indelible memory from childhood (connected to food or the kitchen):
Some of my happiest childhood memories are of outings to the Pyramids in Cairo with relatives. We always stopped on the way at the Cafe des Pigeons, where we ate pigeons grilled on charcoal in the ancient overgrown gardens. The roasting aromas, mingled with a powerful scent of jasmine, made us hungry. The birds arrived piled high on huge trays, garnished with lemon wedges, herbs and salad leaves, and accompanied by warm, freshly-baked bread. They were tiny baby pigeons raised in neighboring villages, their bones so soft that you could eat them.
3. An unforgettable dining experience:
We were 20 around the table at Andresito’s in Alicante in the region of Valencia, Spain. Andresito’s family were for generations peasant retainers of my friend Alicia’s family and he had made good in the tourism and construction boom. We wore straw hats with fresh flowers pinned on, and sat eating for hours, chatting and laughing, and danced between courses. Conviviality and la alegria de vivir (the joy of living) are in the spirit of Mediterranean Spain. We started with marinated anchovies, tiny sweet tomatoes, green olives, pan con tomate; little coca [pastries] with peppers and aubergines; broad beans and artichokes cooked with pancetta. Then came tiny grilled lamb chops and meat balls in an almond sauce accompanied by rice with currants and chickpeas. For dessert we had pumpkin fritters. A giant pumpkin filled with honey and cognac had been baked in the outside bread oven and we scooped out the soft flesh. All the ingredients for the meal came from the estate.
4. An unfulfilled food fantasy:
I was a guest at a fantastic banquet in Beijing. My unfulfilled dream is to travel from one region of China to another and enjoy banquets in every one.
5. I will never ever put in my mouth:
I would rather go hungry than eat horrible industrially- produced food.
6. An unforgettable food-related memory from books or the cinema:
In Miguel de Cervantes’ description in “Don Quixote” of wealthy Camacho’s al fresco wedding feast − a whole ox, its belly stuffed with 24 tiny suckling pigs, is roasted on a spit. Hanging about on trees are dozens of skinned hares, plucked chickens and a variety of game waiting to be cooked, as well as 60 wineskins, each filled with eight gallons of wine. Loaves of bread and whole cheeses are stacked up like a wall. Sweet pastries are dropped into cauldrons of boiling oil, then lifted out and dipped in honey. Don Quixote’s servant, Sancho Panza, asks a cook if he can dip a piece of bread in a simmering broth and the cook ladles out three hens and two geese for him.