Elizabeth David's books belong in the libraries of everyone who loves to read and prepare food and this one is generally regarded as her best; her passion and knowledge comes through on every page. She was one of the foremost writers on food in the latter half of the 20th century and this book has her most celebrated writing. "French Provincial Cooking" should be approached and read as a series of short stories, as well written and evocative as the best literature. The voice is highly personal and opinionated, sometimes sharp but always true and always entertaining. Here is a long essay on French cuisine, offering background stories and sketches of recipes more than the slavishly didactic type of recipes that most modern readers might be used to today. For many Elizabeth David was the first to introduce us to the French notion of la cuisine terroir, sometimes interpreted as 'what grows together goes together'. For David, this is the heart of regional cooking, and the thing which most distinguishes it from cooking in haute cuisine restaurants where diners arrive at any time or any season and expect to be able to order any well known French speciality. One of the passages which best characterizes David's approach to a lot of cooking is her opening statement on the perfect omelette: 'As everybody knows, there is only one infallible recipe for the perfect omelette: your own.' The book starts with a short essay on each of the major culinary regions of France, starting perhaps not surprisingly with Provence which is blessed an abundance of produce. The largest portion of the book consists of chapters on cuisine by type of dish: Sauces, Hors-D'oeuvres and Salads, Soups, Eggs and Cheese, Pates and Terrines, Vegetables, Fish, Shellfish, Meat, Composite Meat Dishes, Poultry and Game, and Sweet dishes. The book is all the more valuable in that it paints a picture of a cooking style which existed before modern equipment such as the food processor. Most importantly, the recipes work if your aim is to produce the most excellent food imaginable. What initially may seem to be annoying details (e.g., for omelettes, eggs 'should not really be beaten at all, but stirred,' whereas for scrambled eggs, they should be 'very well beaten') are actually secrets to be treasured, that elevate a good dish to a superb one. The lesson is that good food should be done simply, but it takes care, attention to detail, and frequently, time. A hardback edition of French Provincial Cooking has been unavailable for many years and Grub Street is re-issuing it because of overwhelming demand. It should become as popular an edition as the best-selling "Elizabeth David Classics".
About the Author
Elizabeth David lived and kept house in France, Italy, Greece, Egypt and India, learning the local dishes and cooking them in her own kitchens. Her first book, Mediterranean Food, appeared in 1950. In 1951 French Country Cooking was published and in 1954, after a year of research in Italy, Italian Food. This was followed by Summer Cooking (1955), French Provincial Cooking (1960) and Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen (1970). In 1973 Mrs David severed all connection with the business trading under her name and concentrated on study and experiment for English Bread and Yeast Cookery, for which she won the 1977 Glenfiddich Writer of the Year Award. An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, a selection of her journalistic work, was published in 1984 and Harvest of the Cold Months, her book on the use of ice and the making of ices was edited by Jill Norman and published posthumously in 1994. She was honoured with many prizes, made Chevalier de l'Ordre du Merite Agricole by the French in 1977, awarded the OBE in 1976 and the CBE in 1986. Honorary doctorates were conferred on her by the universities of Essex and Bristol. In 1982 she was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She died on 22 May 1992.
It is difficult to think of any home that can do without Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking.The Observer