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Elizabeth David's influence


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6 replies to this topic

#1 Steven Blaski

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Posted 16 November 2005 - 09:22 PM

Hello Paula,

In the introduction to the revised version of your second book, "Mediterranean Cooking" (which is my favorite of your books), you write:

"I want once again to tip my hat to my favorite food writer, whom, I'm sorry to say, I never met personally but knew only through her work. I am speaking of the late Elizabeth David, author of many excellent cookbooks, whose classic, 'A Book of Mediterranean Food,' is still for me the most inspiring of all the numerous Mediterranean cookbooks that have been written."

I am curious to know at what point in your life you first read Elizabeth David and "A Book of Mediterranean Food" (was it before or after you had begun writing about food?). Also, in what ways did both she and that particular book influence and inspire you (was it her scholarly approach? her writer's voice? etc.).

Thank you for all your wonderful books.

Steven

#2 Wolfert

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 10:36 AM

Hello Paula,

In the introduction to the revised version of your second book, "Mediterranean Cooking" (which is my favorite of your books), you write:

"I want once again to tip my hat to my favorite food writer, whom, I'm sorry to say, I never met personally but knew only through her work. I am speaking of the late Elizabeth David, author of many excellent cookbooks, whose classic, 'A Book of Mediterranean Food,' is still for me the most inspiring of all the numerous Mediterranean cookbooks that have been written."

I am curious to know at what point in your life you first read Elizabeth David and "A Book of Mediterranean Food" (was it before or after you had begun writing about food?). Also, in what ways did both she and that particular book influence and inspire you (was it her scholarly approach? her writer's voice? etc.).

Thank you for all your wonderful books.

Steven

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Hello Steven,

It was in the late 50's that Dione Lucas suggested I read David's French Country Cooking and Summer Cooking which were then only available in British editions sold at a little book store in NYC that specialized in imported books. Once I read them I ordered the Book of Mediterranean Food and I was hooked. All of this was before I'd ever thought of writing about food. As for what inspired me, I think it was her style and her approach. She really wasn't very scholarly, but she knew a great deal and she was able to convey her passion on the page.
Do you agree?
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#3 Steven Blaski

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 11:38 AM

Hello Steven,

It was in the late 50's that Dione Lucas suggested I read David's French Country Cooking and Summer Cooking which were then only available in British editions sold at a little book store in NYC that specialized in imported books. Once I read them I ordered the Book of Mediterranean Food and  I was hooked. All of this was before I'd ever thought of writing about food. As for what inspired me, I think it was her style and her approach. She really wasn't very scholarly, but she knew a great deal and she was able to convey her passion on the page.
Do you agree?

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Yes, I certainly agree that she had a genius for conveying her passion. But I think I disagree with your opinion that she wasn't very scholarly; or perhaps we're just defining "scholarly" differently.

Her last book, "Harvest of the Cold Months," for example, is a social history of ice and ices. The book before that, "English Bread and Yeast Cookery," is rife with essays on the history and tradition of bread-baking over the centuries and presents numerous historical recipes. In most if not all her other books, she often presented old, even ancient recipes, alongside more modern versions, to underscore the origins and transformations of a dish in the context of its culture. In all of her books, I sense this sort of ... anthropologist in an apron! A thirst for knowledge as much as a hunger for deliciousness. Maybe it's because her prose is so personal and seductive and sensual that the rather dry attribute, "scholarly," doesn't come first and foremost when we think of her.

At any rate, I see quite a few similarities between David and you, especially in the way you both can illuminate an entire culture through their foodways.

#4 Wolfert

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 11:45 AM

Hello Steven,

It was in the late 50's that Dione Lucas suggested I read David's French Country Cooking and Summer Cooking which were then only available in British editions sold at a little book store in NYC that specialized in imported books. Once I read them I ordered the Book of Mediterranean Food and  I was hooked. All of this was before I'd ever thought of writing about food. As for what inspired me, I think it was her style and her approach. She really wasn't very scholarly, but she knew a great deal and she was able to convey her passion on the page.
Do you agree?

View Post


Yes, I certainly agree that she had a genius for conveying her passion. But I think I disagree with your opinion that she wasn't very scholarly; or perhaps we're just defining "scholarly" differently.

Her last book, "Harvest of the Cold Months," for example, is a social history of ice and ices. The book before that, "English Bread and Yeast Cookery," is rife with essays on the history and tradition of bread-baking over the centuries and presents numerous historical recipes. In most if not all her other books, she often presented old, even ancient recipes, alongside more modern versions, to underscore the origins and transformations of a dish in the context of its culture. In all of her books, I sense this sort of ... anthropologist in an apron! A thirst for knowledge as much as a hunger for deliciousness. Maybe it's because her prose is so personal and seductive and sensual that the rather dry attribute, "scholarly," doesn't come first and foremost when we think of her.

At any rate, I see quite a few similarities between David and you, especially in the way you both can illuminate an entire culture through their foodways.

View Post



That's a wonderful compliment and I want to thank you.

You are right about Harvest of the Cold Months and English Bread and Yeast Cookery.

I was answering your query about her Mediterranean books which are more sensual than scholarly.
“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

#5 srhcb

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 12:19 PM

Yes, I certainly agree that she had a genius for conveying her passion. But I think I disagree with your opinion that she wasn't very scholarly; or perhaps we're just defining "scholarly" differently.


I would say Elizabeth David had the ability to relay scholarly information without being pedantic.

In a similar fashion, she could convey passion in a much subtler style than, let's say, MFK Fisher, who's my favorite food writer.

I was surprised as anyone when Ms David held my interest for the entire length of "English Bread and Yeast Cookery", which I found myself reading straight through even though I'd only purchased it as a reference book.

#6 Anna N

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 02:27 PM


Yes, I certainly agree that she had a genius for conveying her passion. But I think I disagree with your opinion that she wasn't very scholarly; or perhaps we're just defining "scholarly" differently.


I would say Elizabeth David had the ability to relay scholarly information without being pedantic.

In a similar fashion, she could convey passion in a much subtler style than, let's say, MFK Fisher, who's my favorite food writer.

I was surprised as anyone when Ms David held my interest for the entire length of "English Bread and Yeast Cookery", which I found myself reading straight through even though I'd only purchased it as a reference book.

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I just acquired this book and it held my interest, too! I have since ordered two more of her books.
Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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#7 andiesenji

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Posted 17 November 2005 - 09:19 PM

I have all of her books and like Paula, I had to get the English editions. I was lucky in that a friend was a book dealer and made two or three trips a year to England to buy books and would pick up things for me. (I collect books on Egyptology as well as cookbooks.)
The first of Elizabeth David's books she got for me were purchased because she wasn't able to find the particular books I had put on my list and the store clerk told her Ms. David's cookbooks were very popular and she wrote articles for popular publications. (No email in those days and overseas phone calls were expensive!)
She even went to Ms. David's kitchen store in London in 1970. She was in a used book store selecting several books and when the clerk noticed she had a couple of the David cookbooks, he mentioned that Ms. David had just had a new book published and it was for sale in her store around the corner. Ms. David was not in the store but she did get me a copy of Spices, Salt and Aromatics.

I also have all of Paula's books and have enjoyed them greatly ever since I first opened "Couscous and Other Good Food....."
The word pictures that put me in the places described are almost as good as a trip itself and the descriptions of the flavors can virtually be tasted.

Edited by andiesenji, 17 November 2005 - 09:20 PM.

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