Clifford A. Wright is an earnest culinary scholar who has worked at the Institute of Arab Studies and has written 14 books. His kitchen is a history of his travels. But over his kitchen sink hangs a Franklin Mint plate on which Larry, Curly and Moe, wearing chef’s jackets, are about to get to work on a turkey.
Wright takes food seriously, with a dash of Three Stooges demeanor.
The author of the classic “A Mediterranean Feast” was testing recipes one recent morning: Frittata‘i Rosa Marina (eggs and smelt) and Chiculliata (a salad of tuna, capers, anchovies, olives and chile). He has thousands of tested, unpublished recipes in his files and two new books — “Hot & Cheesy,” released this month, and “One-Pot Cookery” due out in 2013.
Wright, who worked for years at think tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the Institute of Arab Studies, found his way to culinary scholarship combined with good food on many journeys; the mementos fill the galley kitchen and adjacent dining area of his house in Santa Monica, where he moved in 1996, just a few blocks from the Pacific.
Coming up the stairs and into the room, rows of colorful plates on three sturdy shelves grab the eye. There are a few, from France, where Wright lived as a child. Others come from Sicily, the subject of one of his cookbooks; still others from Turkey. And that institutional-style white one decorated with a pineapple? That came from the Encyclopedia Britannica cafeteria in Chicago, where Wright held his first job, as a proofreader.
“So I stole it,” he says.