Introduced by Johnny Grey
Illustrated by Sophie MacCarthy
This sparkling collection of Elizabeth David’s articles showcases the work of the woman regarded as the ‘best food writer of her time’.
In her 35 years of writing about food, Elizabeth David contributed articles to a number of high-profile publications, including The Spectator, Gourmet magazine and Vogue. An Omelette and a Glass of Wine brings together the best of these writings, showcasing David’s unique style and approach to her work. The collection includes recipes, from riso ricco to Welsh salt duck, but here her articles are much broader in scope, and they revolutionised the food writing genre. Subjects range from surveys of cookery writers from the past, accounts of restaurants and markets in provincial France, and places David loved and delicious meals she enjoyed.
This edition features the black and white decorations by Marie Alix from the first publication, as well as new watercolour illustrations by Sophie MacCarthy. A new foreword from David’s nephew and kitchen designer, Johnny Grey, reveals how his affection and respect for his aunt grew from his first visit to her kitchen as a child: ‘I felt as if I had entered a magic kingdom.’
As she writes in her introduction, David began her career when food writing was a rather niche, not to say eccentric, occupation. Articles featuring recipes relied on a stilted formula that, she writes, ‘reminded me of English musical comedy’. David broke with that convention. Paying her own way in the days before expense accounts, she sought out the best food, whether in wartime Alexandria or in the markets of 1950s Provence. Most things she proposes now seem common sense – making mayonnaise from scratch, cooking with olive oil or pairing Italian wines with English food (‘a Chianti Classico is a wine for roast lamb or a handsome joint of pork’). Yet in 1960's England the arguments for them had to be made, and make them David did, with energy and spirit. Nor did she uncritically praise all things foreign – as her essay on ‘Eating Out in Provincial France’ will attest.
Even the titles of these pieces reveal David's wit, range and erudition: ‘South Wind through the Kitchen’, ‘A Gourmet in Edwardian London’, ‘I’ll Be with You in the Squeezing of a Lemon’. She combines delectable prose with asides as trenchant as a kitchen knife – ‘a bad meal is always expensive’. She also touches on the perils of Michelin stars and the joys of solitary dining (‘A bottle, madam? A whole bottle?’). Above all, there is an honest relish in the simple pleasures of life – not least an omelette and a glass of wine.
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