Sultan’s Seal: Interview with Caroline Eden

Two women look out over the Caspian lowlands of Mangystau in western Kazakhstan. The landscape in this part of the country – of cavities, desert, mountain ridges, labyrinths – is painted with yellow, pink and red sediment. Photo: Caroline Eden

“Greetings from Almaty!” she writes in her e-mail a few days ago. If British writer Caroline Eden is not at home in Edinburgh, she is most probably traveling the roads of Eastern Europe or Central Asia, and her explorations in different cultures have a special kind of prism – food. Caroline Eden uses local food traditions to “tell stories of cities and seas and places and people”. In our interview she compares recipes to “photographs, sketches, snapshots, etchings, vignettes”. Her book, Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes Through Darkness and Light, published last year, is a sensory exploration of the Black Sea region and its post-Soviet countries. Since publication, it has won three awards and was shortlisted for four, and was chosen for the best book of the year round-ups by New York TimesFinancial Times, BBC and The IndependentBlack Sea follows the success of her debut book Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus, co-written with Eleanor Ford in 2016. I wanted to find out about her thoughts on a sense of place, cosmopolitanism and the role of food in her writing.

What is your understanding of “place”? What creates place?

When people – correspondents, journalists and travel writers in particular – speak of “a sense of place” what they tend to mean is

Read full interview in Sultan’s Seal magazine.