David, Elizabeth (Christine Perers, illus.)
- Elizabeth David on Vegetables
Viking Studio, New York NY, 2013.
Hardcover, small quarto, 191pp. Colour plates. Dustwrapper. New. Remainder. Published on the centenary year of her birth, Elizabeth David on Vegetables is a celebration of the beloved writer and a compendium of her vegetable-centric recipes. Having travelled extensively in the sunnier climes of southern Europe she was unabashed about sharing her love for fresh, unusual produce and a Mediterranean sensibility towards simple but sensual food. Her cookery books, which from 1950 to 1960 focused on Italian and French food became bibles for a generation of cooks. They introduced a certain rustic, seasonal, Mediterranean approach to eating which is still - arguably - the dominant approach to cooking to this day. The importance of good olive oil, pasta and pesto, how not to be afraid of garlic, what to do with an aubergine - all these David gave us. This new book, compiled by Jill Norman (literary trustee of her estate), features soups and dips, main meals and side dishes - but what's delightful, particularly delving into it when you are a vegetarian, is that the distinction is often vague. A stuffed aubergine can happily be a main dish or a starter or a lively side; potato pie or veggie tart or courgette gratin can stand alone, rather than coming second to a slab of meat. Many of David's long-standing fans enjoy her books for their travelogue style, vividly evoking foreign markets and restaurants, painting word pictures of vegetables in an unusually eulogising manner: in Venice, "cabbages are cobalt blue, the beetroots deep rose, the lettuces clear, pure green, sharp as glass". Norman has included her digressions - mini-essays or travel sketches - on everything from the truffle season to the history of the spud to Venetian markets (featuring exotic salads, 'quite unfamiliar to English eyes,' such as radicchio, lamb's lettuce and rocket. David's book encourages you to really think about vegetables and how you treat them, but also to be a bit more imaginative. This is rather pleasing for the haphazard cook. And with David's brisk but enthusiastic rough guide to all things fresh and vegetable, everything from courgettes to watercress can confidently take centre stage. - Holly Williams
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