Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Mediterranean
South Wind Through the Kitchen: The Best of Elizabeth David
North Point Press
Published: October 1, 1998
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The American food writer M.F.K. Fisher struggled in her time and writing to establish a way of talking about food. The British food writer Elizabeth David, who overlapped Fisher at about the time World War II was winding down, struggled to
bring an accurate sense of the foods of the Mediterranean to the table. Both ladies had their cranky sides. There are moments reading David when it feels as though she has just cracked the back of your knuckles with the handle of a wooden spoon. There
are times, too, when she pulls you up close to the stove and fans the aroma of delicious food up toward your face, and enjoys the way your nostrils quiver. In both cases David is there to wake you up.
South Wind Through the Kitchen is a collection
of the best of Elizabeth David's writings, selected by food writers and food professionals who dearly loved the woman and who were deeply affected by her brilliance. There's nothing quite like a David prose passage that sets place and time, personality
and ingredients, and then as almost an afterthought delivers her notes on how a dish is assembled, like this one from Mediterranean Food:
Displayed in enormous round shallow pans, these tomatoes (stuffed tomatoes andagravel la Grecque), together
with pimentos and small marrows cooked in the same way, are a feature of every Athenian taverna, where one goes into the kitchen and chooses one's meal from the pans arrayed on the stove.... Peering into every stewpan, trying a spoonful of this, a morsel
of that, it is easy to lose one's head and order a dish of everything on the menu.
Cut off the tops of a dozen large tomatoes, scoop out the flesh and mix it with 2 cups of cooked rice. To this mixture add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, 2
tablespoons of currants, some chopped garlic, pepper, and salt, and, if you have it, some leftover lamb or beef. Stuff the tomatoes with this mixture and bake them in a covered dish in the oven (350 degrees) with olive oil.
She was out there
early, wandering around France and Italy, setting a stage and a tone for everyone who has followed. She traipsed through the Mediterranean countries, the Levant, North Africa, opening up a world of flavor, spice, and technique that must have seemed
wildly exotic to a postwar Great Britain struggling with the remains of wartime food rationing. The clouds parted, and there was Elizabeth David, full and warm.
And like the sun, she remained something of a unique presence unto her own. It's
interesting that these two grand dames of food writing were both essentially loners. You will find in M.F.K. Fisher the language of food. You will find in this lovely collection of Elizabeth David's writing the language of food, and all the rest, too.
--Schuyler Ingle--This text refers to the
An irresistible, charming, and inspired selection from the work of one of this century's great food writers.
Like M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child,
Elizabeth David changed the way we think about and prepare food. David's nine books, written with impeccable wit and considerable brilliance, helped educate the taste (and taste buds) of the postwar generation. Insisting on authentic recipes and fresh
ingredients, she showed that food need not be complicated to be good.
A Book of Mediterranean Food, published in 1950, introduced the ingredients of a sunnier world (olive oil, garlic, eggplant, basil), celebrating their smell and taste and
above all highlighting the concept that food reflects a way of life and should be a source of joy. Subsequent books on French and Italian cooking and a stream of provocative articles followed. Later, David's monumental English Bread and Yeast Cookery
became the champion of the Real Bread movement. Her last book, Harvest of the Cold Months, is a fascinating historical account of food preservation, eating habits, and the astonishing worldwide food trade in snow and ice.
Many of the recipes and
excerpts here were chosen by David's friends and by the chefs and writers she inspired (including Alice Waters and Barbara Kafka). This
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