Elizabeth David, the British food writer and cookery expert, awakened the food tastes of post-war Britain, in much the same way that Julia Child did for American cooks and eaters: through extoling the foods and traditions of France and Italy, and bringing the light and warmth of Mediterranean cooking to an audience ready to be charmed and won over by new ingredients and delectable and daring food experiences. She never achieved the international celebrity status of Julia, with no TV show or cookbook ‘bible’ to her credit, but her food columns and cookbooks, published from the 1940s to the 1980s, were immensely popular on the other side of the pond and deserve a much wider appreciation here.
Raised in Britain between the world wars, in the kind of traditional, upper-class home where the cook planned and prepared the meals, the butler served them and the scullery maid cleaned them up, her early memories of eating were grim, especially in school. When she was 16, she lived with a family in France and studied at the Sorbonne. Her experience of food and eating was so dramatically transformed that she spent the rest of her life on the trail of adventures with food. Living in France, Italy, Greece, Egypt and India, she absorbed the foodways of multiple cultures and wrote vivid, tantalizing and slightly acerbic essays about them for publications back in Britain, where they were eagerly received. There followed numerous cookbooks and a cookery shop in London.
At Elizabeth David’s Table is an extremely tasteful sampling of recipes from her previous books, as well as some of her essays from various food magazines, all presented in a handsome new format with beautiful photographs. The title of the book says it all - it is classic and timeless and highly recommended. With a saucepan in one hand and a pen in the other, she loved nothing better than experimenting with recipes, enertaining her friends with simple but excellent meals and wine, and writing tales - at her kitchen table - of her many adventures abroad. She went beyond being a flawless cook and memorable writer. Her mastery of 'the good life’ shines through all her work.