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Elizabeth David-What do you think?

NYRB is having a book sale and this caught my eye. Anyone read this? What do you think?

A Book of Mediterranean Food
By Elizabeth David
Foreword by Clarissa Dickson Wright

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  1. David's one of the greats. Read it, savor it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tatamagouche

      Buy and read immediately, and see where so much of what gets written today about food and landscape and culture and desire comes from.

    2. Classic - seek out all her books.

      1. all of e. david's books are absolutely must-haves.

        1. What they all said. I have also really liked the books of essays, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine and Is There a Nutmeg in the House, and very much enjoyed Artemis Cooper's biography, Writing at the Kitchen Table.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Allstonian

            I've just about finished "Writing at the Kitchen Table" and have been quite enthralled by it. I think at this point I have most of David's books, though I am missing Mediterranean Food, and one of the French ones. Mrs. David had quite the life, and the book is entertaining and informative. I may go back and read through her books in order. Also, I recently read "Spices, Salt, and Aromatics in the English Kitchen" and found it fascinating.

            1. re: MMRuth

              Mrs H cooked a daube on Saturday mainly using David's recipe from "Provincial Cooking" but also taking some bits from a recipe by the late Mireille Johnston.

              We're in the Pas de Calais region for a three days in May. Lots of good eating to be had in small village bistro type places.

          2. After reading all the endorsements above I just ordered Elizabeth David Classics: Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking, and Summer all under one cover.

            1. . "Mediterranean Food" was first published in 1950 - the year of my birth. You have to remember that it was written in the context of Britain still having food rationing following WW2 (it didnt end until 1954). Elizabeth David enthused a whole generation of us Brits to cook - by showing that there were interesting ingredients out there and interesting ways to cook them.

              Her "French Provincial Cooking", first published in 1960, is still a winner in the Harters household and is my usual reference point for French dishes.

              Many of us have come to her books in more recent years, when Mediterranean influences were well fixed in British cuisine. She is almost solely responsible for that.

              "Omelette and a Glass of Wine" is a great read.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Harters

                I've read many of her books, but particularly enjoyed South Wind Through the Kitchen: The Best of Elizabeth David.

                "This compilation of David's best writing--including both essays and recipes--was chosen by a variety of cooks who count her as a major influence on their work, including Alice Waters and Barbara Kafka. The volume includes generous samplings of David's colorful and evocative writing on the cuisines of the Mediterranean, which she introduced to British cooks after World War II. "


              2. Elizabeth David is a must for anyone interested in food writing, as noted by other posters. To cook from, my favorites are Summer Cooking and Spices, Salt, and Aromatics in the English Kitchen. English Bfread and Yeast Cookery is an enthralling book for anyone interested in the topic - historical background and sound recipes.

                1. i hate to rain on the parade, but it kind of depends on what you're looking for. don't buy elizabeth david if you're expecting a modern-style cookbook with carefully written recipes and explained ingredients. do buy it if you're looking for evocative hednotes and some interesting ideas. note that there were two stages in her career: early on she was, as another poster mentioned, instrumental in bringing the British public out of their rationing-imposed darkness. Later, she became much more interested in food history and wrote several excellent, though fairly stiff, books on the subject.

                  but it's important to know that she's not Rachael Ray, or even Julia Child. If you want to cook from her books, she's going to make you earn that right.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: FED

                    I've actually never cooked anything from her books - probably for the exact reasons you state. Have you tried them?

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      The language, of course, is nearly 70 years old. But this is a woman who had a "feel" for food. As such, the recipes should hold no fear for those of us today who cook with a similar feel without the need for exact quantities of everything in a recipe. Her recipe for tuna (or tunny as she calls in 1950):-

                      "The best way to cook it is to cut it into thick slices, like a salmon steak and saute it in oil or butter, adding halfway through the cooking 2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped, a handful of cut parsley and a small glass of wine, either red or white. Serve plainly cooked potatoes with it."

                      Easy? Enjoy - this is a nice tuna recipe. Maybe a small green salad served after it.

                      1. re: Harters

                        I love how English cookbooks refer to a "small glass" or "large glass" of wine. I agree with you though.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          I learned to cook from her books (and from watching my mother cook) and Elizabeth David shaped my whole attitude towards and expectations of food. I never found her recipes hard to follow--it is only in the US that recipes are so explicit about quantities and timing. (I was living in France, the UK and Italy) I believe she also influenced the US doyenne of cuisine, Julia, who of course taught everyone else to cook.

                    2. re: FED

                      ok FED your point is well taken. i'll restate my above post: for food writing bibliophiles (like me), works by e. david are essential, along with mfk fisher, james beard. . . i will admit that i own more than 700 volumes and less than 1000 volumes of cookbooks, food writing & food history books. i'm counting shelves rather than spines at this point.

                      i personally would never attempt to cook from RR's recipes, because she doesn't have any understanding of basic cooking techniques. i agree that e. david's works are unlike hers. sure, e. david's recipes tend to be unmeasured & intuitive, but isn't that a fine way to cook? many of e. david's recipes are just as delicious as they were 50-70 years ago, & many of them are actually quicker & simpler than RR's. e. david's phrasings seem stiff to you? bear in mind that this is an aristocratic englishwoman born nearly a century ago-- her language is sometimes formal, but most times it's very simple & straightforward, with a beautiful flow-- i personally don't find it intimidating & would take e. david's language over RR's annoying, (loud) manic drivel any day. here's another recipe from my copy of e. david's 'french provincial cooking' originally published 1960, republished with introduction by julia child:

                      mussels with onion and tomato

                      for a quart of small mussels, the other ingredients are a medium-sized onion, 2 large tomatoes, butter.
                      in a heavy frying-pan melt the butter; put in the roughly chopped onion and let it turn golden. add the skinned and chopped tomatoes. then put in the cleaned and scrubbed mussels, without any other liquid. turn up the flame and cook until the mussels are open, shaking the pan from time to time so that the sauce gets evenly distributed among the mussels. serve boiling hot immediately the mussels are open. add freshly-milled pepper as you bring them to the table.
                      enough for two.

                      nice recipe! simple, unfussy, & as valid now as it was in 1960. elegant, fast & easy. take that rachel. :)

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        Now *that's* a recipe I can understand! Can't wait to get the book I ordered today. Thank you v. much soupkitten.

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          for the record: i own all of ED's books, several of them in first editions. My point was not that she didn't do good work, just a warning to someone who sounded like a beginning cook who might be expecting something else and be disappointed.

                          1. re: FED

                            Thanks for the words of advice. Not looking for cooking tips, looking for food history, writing, and nuances.

                      2. Thank you all very very much. I just ordered it. New York Review of Books marked it off 40%, in case anyone wants to but this particular one.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          Thanks - I don't think I have that one.

                        2. worth it alone for the description of an unexpected boozy lunch alone in France including a live trout in a bucket. She turned on so many to the simple sybaritics of food

                          5 Replies
                            1. re: etaoishnd

                              But wasn't that MFK Fisher, not Elizabeth David?

                              1. re: buttertart

                                I think they both had boozy lunch experiences.

                            2. Buy and read anything by this woman---She is absolutely wonderful, great to cook from, often hilarious. Dig up An Omelette and a Glass of Wine if you really want to have some fun.