On being picky and learning to eat globally: Clifford A. Wright

Right out of college I bought a cookbook with a really, really long name. Today the spine is cracked from years of use and comfy-chair reading. I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things to do is “read” cookbooks – especially ones filled with good stories.

The much cherished book even won the James Beard/KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000. It is called… A Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More than 500 recipes

Whew. Like I said, long name.

Since that time Clifford’s published many books including The Best Soups in the World.

Hello, what a perfect resource for this Adventure!

This man is talented – and I would love for all of you to get to know his work. So. I interviewed him. Hurrah!

Hello, Clifford.. thanks for joining us!

1. What advice to you have for someone just learning to cook “foreign” food?

Short of traveling to the country itself, the best way to learn how to cook from a foreign cuisine is to begin to understand the culinary culture of that country.  That might mean going to a restaurant, although the novice will have no idea if they’re getting the real thing or some watered-down Americanization.  That leaves cookbooks.  There’s no better way to learn to cook from another culture than through repetition of trial and error using a good cookbook.  Cookbooks written by a native tend to be good, but also look for an author who doesn’t merely give you a collection of recipes but who tells you the story behind the recipes.

2. What’s the most memorable food experience you’ve had in your travels?

They tend to be the simple and surprising ones that you have on the street or in people’s homes.  Rarely will a restaurant provide that experience, although they can because of their locale or the uniqueness of their food.  There are too many food stories to relate, which one do you choose; the shawarma at the truckstop in Homs (western Syria), the bouillabaisse in Golfe-Juan (French Riveria), the tam’iyya from the vendor in Marsa Matruh (Egypt), the pizza at Da Michele in Naples (Italy)?

Food definitions: Shwarma is a wrap filled with spit-grilled meat, bouillabaisse is a seafood stew, tam’iyya are fried fava bean patties, and pizza is… ahem…pizza.

3. Were you ever picky? If yes, what foods did/do you avoid? Why? Has anything helped you overcome this?

I was never picky; I eat everything, and I don’t hang out with people who are picky…they annoy me and are depressing.

4. What did you eat as a child and how did it influence your career path?

Although my mother wasn’t a great cook, because of her Italian background she did cook some pretty good Italian food.  My father was also stationed in France with the USAF, so I experienced French food very early on, not to mention other European cuisines because of our travels.

5. Any upcoming projects?

I have two books coming out to be published by Wiley in 2012 and 2013.  The first is all about cooking with cheese with the working title “Hot & Cheesy.”  The second, One-Pot Meals, is just that, dinners you cook in one cooking vessel only, whether that vessel be a stew pot, a wok, a skillet, a casserole, and so forth.

If you’d like to learn more about Clifford, please visit his web site.. it is full of recipes, videos, a great blog, and more.


UPDATE: We have a winner – congratulations Elaine! Email me (sasha at GlobalTableAdventure dot com) to claim your prize, “The Best Soups in the World.” I hope it helps you eat your way around the world! Here’s her winning comment. selected at random:

The best soup in the world is the cheese soup with vegetables that my Mom used to make. It was warm, not over-cheesy, and full of broccoli. Of course, like any soup that Moms make, it can never be duplicated…as hard as I try!

For those interested in getting to know Clifford’s work, I’m giving 1 (one) lucky winner 1 (one) copy of The Best Soups in the World.

This week we’re making a variation of his Moravian Pickle Soup and it’s super Yum.

There’s 480 pages of soup goodness. Other recipes in the book include Albanian Bread Soup, Tibetan Blue Cheese & Beef Soup, and Peruvian Shrimp Chowder.

Someone pick me up off the floor. Absolutely incredible.

How to enter

Simply answer the following question in the comments section:

What is the best soup in the world?

Contest ends December 10, 2010 at midnight. Must be 18 to enter.


  1. Spinach Soup!? Lentil Soup!? French Onion Soup!? Oh, I’ve got it: it’s … Soup! Whatever soup I’m eating at the moment has got to be the best soup in the world!

  2. I appreciate Rike’s response, but it seems I might think the NEXT soup I eat will be the best in the world. As I savor a dish, I’m always thinking of ways to modify, improve, or just experiment with the flavors, texture, aromas, etc. of whatever I am eating. Always new horizons to explore.

  3. The best soup in the world TODAY is Cream of

    Mushroom made with sour cream and paprika…

  4. Barbara says

    My favorite soup, that even 2 of my semi fussy children will eat, is sweet potato with spicy sausage.
    Sweet & slightly spicy has got to be my number one choice in flavor combos!

  5. Heather says

    My personal favorite soup in the world is Split Pea made by my mom. It reminds me of Christmas and home and deliciousness. Every year she would use the leftovers from the Christmas ham to make split pea soup…..yummm

  6. elaine says

    The best soup in the world is the cheese soup with vegetables that my Mom used to make. It was warm, not over-cheesy, and full of broccoli. Of course, like any soup that Moms make, it can never be duplicated…as hard as I try!

  7. The best soup right now (don’t ask next week) is Andrew Weil’s Butternut Squash soup made with apples, onions, garlic – and my own turkey stock from Thanksgiving. Swirl in a little pesto and yummmmm.

  8. Christine says

    My grandfather’s pasta e fagioli. Hands down, no contest.

    It makes me warm and fuzzy just thinking about it 🙂

  9. Janine Maraviglia says

    My favorite soup of all time is a recipie I got off the Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen area. It is portabello mushroom soup with cream base. It has Chablis in it and is simply divine! Especially with a good crusty piece of homemade bread! Even my mom liked it and she doesn’t normally eat anythign with spirits in it!

  10. Loved this! Thank you for sharing.

    My favorite soup would include Boeuf Bourguignon! I was taught how to make Boeuf Bourguignon by my native French friend. Maybe you can try my recipe when you get to ‘France’!

    It’s sure to became a favorite in your family too. It’s so good.

    Happy cooking Sasha!

  11. Maggie says

    My favorite soup of all time is this concoction that my best childhood friend’s mother used to make. It was a standard vegetable soup (with the potatoes cut into the most amazingly uniform squares I’ve ever seen), some mini pasta shells, and ground beef. It tasted like home in a bowl, and I still to this day cannot replicate it no matter how hard I try.

    A close second, though, is my grandpa’s potato and onion soup. It’s just the perfect thing to eat in the winter.

  12. I love “Tom Kha Gai” – Thai coconut milk soup. Creamy, spicy, fresh and flavorful!

  13. Rebecca says

    The best soup in the world has to be made with quality ingredients and lots of love. The very best soup is one that feeds your soul and warms you from the inside out. Nothing the standard Chicken can’t handle. It has medicinal qualities. It’s comforting and it’s universal, most countries have their own version.

  14. Right at the moment, I have French Onion soup on my mind. My husband is thinking about tortilla soup. Glad it is not a matter of world peace. With soup it is pretty much all good.

  15. My favourite soup is made with lamb shanks, split peas and lots of onion and garlic 🙂 It doesn’t have a name because it’s an ever evolving recipe that came from my partner’s family. It’s so great in Winter ^_^

    Kate1485 at hotamil.com

  16. Pingback: Global Table Adventure | Recipe: Ali’s Mother (Umm Ali)

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