Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

An omelette and a glass of wine ...

Its a pleasure to discover Elizabeth David's books on French and Italian food and cooking, originally published in the 1950s and early 60s, when mediterranean food was rare and considered exotic in postwar England, after the age of rationing and wartime shortages.

Long before Mary Berry and Delia, Nigel and Nigella, Jamie Oliver, James Martin and Rick Stein, Rachel Allen and Rachel Khoo, the Chiappa Sisters and The Hairy Bikers and and all the rest with their TV series and books (I won't even mention the ones who annoy me and whom we ignore)  - Elizabeth David (1913-1992) trod a solitary path with her cool prose extolling the virtues of European cuisine in her books and articles for "Vogue" and "The Sunday Times" and other magazines, at a time when now everyday items like olives, figs, garlic, pasta were scare even in London, so she became a major influence on the evolution of British cooking. She was wise to retain her copyrights so was able to republish her writings for her various books. 

AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE is a perfect compilation of these articles, covering her travels in France and also Italy - which led to her books ITALIAN COOKING, FRENCH PROVINCIAL COOKING, A BOOK OF MEDITERRANEAN FOOD, SUMMER COOKING, and a little Penguin I first got some decades ago, I WILL BE WITH YOU IN THE SQUEEZING OF A LEMON - included in AN OMELETTE AND A GLASS OF WINE

I like this paragraph: "Let's just have an omelette and a glass of wine. Perhaps first a slice of home-made pate and a few olives, afterwards a fresh salad and a piece of ripe creamy cheese or some fresh figs or strawberries.... How many times have I ordered and enjoyed just such a meal in French country hotels and inns in preference to the set menu of truites meuniere, entrecote, pommes paille and creme caramel which is the French equivalent of the English roast and two veg, and apple tart and no less dull when you have experienced it two or three times," 

Viva Elizabeth David - may her books long continue in print to delight us. They also convey that sense of living in postwar London in areas like Kensington and Chelsea, a vanished world now. 
David was following by those other food writers and columnists like Jane Grigson, and Katharine Whitehorn at "The Observer" whose writings became that invaluable book for us young bedsitter folk: COOKING IN A BEDSITTER, and then the young Delia and Lindsey Bareham ... then Mary Berry took over. 

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