Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Elizabeth David - A New Collection of Recipes

If we were to bushwack our way back to the true source of modern American food culture, we would find that it is not Julia Child, but Elizabeth David. (Her) recipes are all charm. . .
The New Yorker

We just adore Elizabeth David so we were very pleased to hear that Ecco just released a new recipe collection from this witty, brilliant British food writer.

T. Susan Chang of the Boston Globe was kind enough to review it today:

The great British food writer Elizabeth David, who died in 1992, was opinionated, practical, curious, and full of appreciation for the good things of the table. So it is not surprising that the new edition of her collected recipes is as well.

At first glance, you suspect you’re in for a nostalgic venture — the highly styled weathered farmstead crockery, the travelogue excerpts from 1958. The subtitle promises us “classic’’ and “timeless’’ fare, but those words have nearly lost their meaning from overuse. After all, there would be no reason to publish this book, whose every recipe has been previously published, if it were not classic and timeless.

But on closer inspection, this volume turns out to be an intriguing fusion of what cookbooks used to be like and what they are today. Today’s instructions tend to come in two styles: laconic (“cook 5 minutes on high’’) or discursive (“My niece’s best friend inspired this recipe after a ski party four years ago’’). David’s are neither. They are concisely written, but not what I’d call vague. These recipes may not tell you exactly how many minutes the pan requires, but they tell you what to look for. In short, they make you focus, and judgment calls are often necessary (which may make the book a challenge for some new cooks). Where things aren’t spelled out, there is always the photograph to which to refer. When I made David’s coriander mushrooms, I was careful to observe her directions about using very low heat and including the bay leaf in the dish for its fragrance; the mushrooms come out simple, but impeccable. She applies a similarly fastidious technique to spinach with golden raisins, which offer up a delicate visual pun alongside their near-twins, golden pine nuts.

Mascarpone, with instructions to “gently heat, not boil,’’ is far easier to get today than it was in David’s time, making penne with mascarpone and walnuts a delicious and dead-easy weeknight meal. Equally straightforward is her spaghetti with clams, which barely amounts to more than a few fresh tomatoes, a handful of aromatics, and the clams. At the end of the recipe, David characteristically steps in before you can commit an iniquity: “Cheese is never served with spaghetti alle vongole.’’

The rest of the review can be found here.

Godine is proud to publish Elizabeth David's Christmas with 150 recipes and a selection of David's own articles (foreword by Alice Waters) along with South Wind Through the Kitchen: The Best of Elizabeth David which features essays on the food of Provence and Paris, on Italian fish markets, Middle Eastern herb gardens, and nearly 200 recipes.

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