South Wind Through the Kitchen: The Best of Elizabeth David

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North Point Press

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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 collection will enable some of us to discover and others to remember what made David one of our most influential and best-loved food writers.


Elizabeth David
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South Wind Through the Kitchen: The Best of Elizabeth David
Jill Norman

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South Wind Through The Kitchen, The Best Of Elizabeth David is a selection of Ms. David's work that was compiled by Jill Norman, who is Elizabeth David's literary trusty. Jill Norman, publisher and author, also completed Harvest Of The Cold Months, Elizabeth David's final book, which she was working on at the time of her death it was completed using notes left by Ms. David. Many of the selections in this book were chosen by people that either knew Elizabeth David or were influenced by her. She influenced a legion of chefs and food writers I count myself among those ranks.

Reading the writings of Elizabeth David is inspirational to say the least she is often said to be the best food writer of her time. Her work in general is not merely a collection of recipes and essays on food it is more akin to an autobiography telling of the people and food that she has known. While this is definitely a utilitarian book that is full of recipes, it can also easily be read cover to cover, like a novel even the recipes read as a form of prose. A classic example of her poetic form of recipe writing is evident in her essay on Cornish Saffron Cake, which appears on pages 326-328 of this book it originally appeared in English Bread And Yeast Cookery, which was published in 1977.

Over the years I have often found myself reading (and re-reading) the introduction in my well worn copy of A Book Of Mediterranean Cuisine for enjoyment and inspiration. A Book Of Mediterranean Cuisine was Ms. David's first book, which was published in 1950. Though it was published almost a half century ago it still rings true today. The first and last paragraphs are what I find most interesting they are as follows (it appears in full on page 3 of South Wind Through The Kitchen):

"The cooking of the Mediterranean shores, endowed with all the natural resources, the colour and flavor of the south, is a blend of tradition and brilliant improvisation. The Latin genius flashes from the kitchen pans."

"With this selection (it does not claim to be more) of Mediterranean dishes, I hope to give some of the lovely cookery of those regions to people who do not already know them, and to stir the memories of those who have eaten this food on its native shores, and who would like sometimes to bring a flavour of those blessed lands of sun and sea and olive trees into their English kitchens."

Elizabeth David was a prolific writer who between 1950 and 1994 published nine books, most of which are considered classics amongst food professionals portions of all of her books appear in this "best of" volume. As a cook she always strode to be as authentic as possible and often this meant writing about ingredients that were not yet known or at least not available in post-war England, and that is what I find really interesting about this book. Much of her work was published three, four, even five decades ago and is not only relevant today but is still used as reference by serious cooks around the globe.

In short, South Wind Through The Kitchen is a "must have" for any cook's library, whether a professional or a layperson. It is both an inspirational read and also an invaluable source of food information and recipes.


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