We recently had a chance to chat with Clifford A.
Wright. Clifford, a specialist in Mediterranean cuisines, was a
winner of the James Beard Cookbook of the Year and Beard Award for
the Best Writing on Food for his 2000 cookbook, A Mediterranean
Feast. He just published a new cookbook, One-Pot Wonders, which Susie
reviewed in her Cookbook roundup,
stating "What Clifford Wright doesn't know about stew and soups
from all over the world isn't worth knowing."
We posed three questions:
What do you most enjoy about writing a
cookbook? And what don't you like?
My favorite part of writing a cookbook is, I guess,
eating. I love the food I test. Seriously though I think it's
twofold: the research, because I mostly write about culinary
cultures and traditional home cooking, and the literal cooking, hot
pans and sharp knives. What I don't care to do so much
is the shopping for food that often involves multiple stops and the
frustrating wait on check-out lines.
What were some key influences on you when you
I began to cook when I was 15-years-old,
because my first job was working as a busboy in a very high end
restaurant and I was enormously influenced by what I saw
there. I remember using the Betty Crocker cookbook
to make crepes suzettes.
Within a year, though, I had my favorite
cookbook, and to this day it's one of the best cookbooks ever and a
book that should be in everyone's library, especially if you like
Italian food, and that is Ada Boni's Italian Regional
Cooking. This was the book that opened my
eyes. Every kid who grows up in New York thinks they know
Italian food. What Boni showed me is that I knew
nothing. It was a magical book for me, as exciting,
revealing, and as portentous as if I was reading a Harry Potter
book. I don't know if it was the first cookbook I ever owned
but it sure is up there as one of the first.
What's your best recipe?
I'm not sure what recipe would be associated with me
as my "best" but I have some go-to recipes I do for very special
guests when I'm not recipe testing (which a cookbook author does
all the time) and those would be, in no particular order, ossobuco, bouillabaisse, timballo
di maccherone (macaroni pie), the elaborate Moroccan pigeon pie
known as bastila, cannoli for a sweet and,
surprisingly, my hummus which people tell me is
the best they ever had.