Elizabeth David, Great Cook, Wonderful Writer
I have been reading At Elizabeth David's Table in preparation for writing a review. Reading her articles on food has been inspiring. Her writing on culinary travel and culture, rather than cooking, makes me to want to write more on food and its social and cultural role. I love good food but as an amateur cook of modest skills, I am not equipped to provide cookery advice but I hope I can share the simple pleasures of good food and travel, especially when enjoyed in good company.
Much is made of Elizabeth David's role of bringing French and Mediterranean food to Britain as wartime rationing was ending. However, it is not just her collections of recipes that are so important but also her writing on the cultural and social aspects of food. Rediscovering her travel writing has been a delight and it is such a pleasure that some of her essays have been included in At Elizabeth David's Table. Reading them has caused me to add to my collection of Elizabeth David reprints and to read more of her work.
Apart from the articles, At Elizabeth David's Table is a valuable collection of, as it is subtitled, Her very best everyday recipes. Most are simple and quick to cook and deny the need to for pre-prepared food. Many of the dishes can be cooked in no more time than would be spent queuing to buy ready meals or a takeaway and are ideal for meals after work. The photography in At Elizabeth David's Table justifiably gets top billing as it does the food full justice. The full-page illustrations are of straightforward food, simply served; it lets the dishes speak for themselves.
At Elizabeth David's Table should inspire anyone who enjoys cooking good food for a family or even for a couple or individual. In between meals, keen cooks can enjoy Elizabeth David's writing. Although most of the articles were written a lifetime ago, the thoughts and ideas are still relevant for the gourmande. Her essays put the enjoyment of good food in a social and domestic context rather than current obsession with the cult of the celebrity chef and "fine" dining (more on that in a future article).
Anyone who loves cooking and especially sharing good food with close friends and family should keep a copy of At Elizabeth David's Table readily to hand. Use it as a guide for cooking everyday family meals and as a reminder of the importance of shared pleasures. Each time I pick up At Elizabeth David's Table it makes my mouth water and I want to get into the kitchen or travel in Elizabeth David's footsteps. I want to find out how those small restaurants serving good, simple regional food and markets with local produce are surviving the industrialisation and celebritisation of food.
At Elizabeth David's Table, Her very best everyday recipes (2010, ISBN: 978-0-718-15475-2) is published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin, in hard back at £25.
Rediscovering Elizabeth David, great cook and equally great writer, has given me a new direction and purpose for my writing and photography. My aim is to share the pleasures of travel, cultural and social aspects of food with like-minded readers. Although the column will not be about cookery or fine dining, I may occasionally share favourite recipes or reviews of restaurants.