Friday, 5 April 2013

E is for Elizabeth David ...



I wonder if a British icon will rise from the recent blizzard conditions that we have been experiencing this year ... 67 years after her Mediterranean  influence over British food ...
The iconic cover of her book


... Elizabeth David was stuck in a dismal post-war hotel on the Welsh borders, where in despair she reminisced about the Mediterranean food she had once known.


Her book of Mediterranean Food helped revolutionise British food into something distinctly more palatable, than the Home Office’s war recipes!


She brought us sunshine through her food – basil – no not a favourite uncle, but a resonating herb ... courgettes (no longer an alien word) or zucchini (if you prefer) ... guiding us on how to cook an egg ... or more importantly how to cook and eat spaghetti.


Elizabeth David
Sensuous descriptions were written out ... olives and almonds remembered from those distant shores ... anchovies, aubergines (egg plants), mozzarella took their exotic time to appear for the ‘peasants’ in the suburbs to be able to buy ...


Delicatessens started offering such continental delicacies ... but what was one to do – and where did you find olive oil – at Boots (the chemists) perhaps? – but really did we need to cook with an ingredient for dislodging ear wax?
 
Spaghetti with olive oil, olives
with a fresh tomato sauce

Elizabeth showed us ... her books changed our eating habits ... they revolutionised British cuisine ... and they still do to this day – all down to freakish weather ...


That is E for Elizabeth David – the cookery writer who put the zing back into our British food – part of the ABC series on Aspects of British Cookery


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

46 comments:

Mark Means said...

I've had spaghetti with olive oil and olives. It's quite a bit different from what I was used to, but tasted great all the same.

YVONNE LEWIS: said...

It goes to show out of a bad situation much good can from it.Elizabeth David certainly proved that.
Cheers Hilary.

Yvonne.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I never knew that olive oil was once used for dislodging ear wax. Elizabeth David certainly made good use of her time at the hotel, and it sounds like people are still benefiting from her delicious recipes today. Thanks Hilary!

Julie

Rosalind Adam said...

I'm sorry to say that I've never heard of her before today but I do love those Mediterranean recipes ( as long as there aren't too many sweet peppers yuk!) I'm also sorry to say that this weather has not been an inspiration to my writing. Quite the opposite!

Rosalind Adam is Writing in the Rain

Francene Stanley said...

Thanks for bring her to my attention. How wonderful that she used her time wisely--and creatively.

Sue H said...

We only had plain simple cooking at home - Mum was a baker and confectioner, so her greater skills lay there, but we were a 'roast beef and two veg' kind of family. After her death, in my teens, I became head-cook-and-bottle-washer and without her expertise to draw (and the unadventurous eating habits of the family to provide for) I invested in a Marguerite Patten n0-n0nsense cookbook (which I've only recently passed on to my daughter!)

Elizabeth David's style was what I (ignorantly) called 'haute cuisine' - far loftier than my aspirations and off-limits as far as my Dad was concerned, he didn't like 'foreign' food!

With the current financial recession,(as well as the current unseasonably cold UK weather) I imagine soups, stews and casseroles in the slo-cooker will be the order of the day - and I have a wartime-rationing cookbook on the shelf, as we head back to the waste-not-want-not attitudes of WW2. (I've always been fascinated by the concept of 'haybox' cookery - mainly because it defies the power companies! ;-p)

Great set of posts, Hilary! Enjoy the A-Z blog hop (and many thanks for dropping over to mine, too!)

Maria Perry Mohan said...

How educational it is, reading blogs like this. Elizabeth David....well I'm not totally British although it's in my backround, but I'm finding this totally fascinating Well, bless her, I guess the Britons to whom culinary satisfaction means something will bless her name forever.

from Maria's Book Blog

Deniz Bevan said...

I've got that book!

Deniz Bevan said...

Haven't followed a recipe from there for a while, I should dig it out!

Manzanita said...

Not a favorite uncle? She sounds colorful and now the British can all cook their food on an Aga.

Clarissa Draper said...

Thank goodness for her. I couldn't imagine eating food without all the spices we use today.

Jo said...

I have French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David. I haven't cooked from it in a while either. New books come along I guess.

I sure didn't know the back story though. Thanks for all that info Hilary.

JO ON FOOD, MY TRAVELS AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE

Bob Scotney said...

Even I, who is reputed not to be able to cook anything, has heard of her.

Teresa Coltrin said...

Isn't that funny, I think we all have food we reminisced for as in one grandma's dressing and another's fluffy icy.

Gattina said...

Being married to an Italian we eat Mediterranean food since 44 years, lol ! I love this kitchen it's so light and healthy.

Damyanti said...

She sure sounds better than Nigella Lawson.

Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

Twitter: @AprilA2Z
#atozchallenge

Alexandra Heep said...

That is how I felt when I moved to the USA from Germany. I was in a tiny town up north in the middle of nowhere with 6 months of snow and mud during spring, if it ever got there. So, I could not get the ingredients to cook properly and this was before the Internet, so I could not get stuff online.

Luckily I am now in a metropolitan area and we even have an authentic German restaurant nearby.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Bless Elizabeth David. I've always loved England, but I insisted on having a kitchen during my stays. Now the food selection is fantastic, and obviously partly due to Ms. David.

Lisa said...

Now you've just made me hungry!!! I really love your historical whimsies!

Tracy Moore said...

Another lovely post! There's nothing like a little Mediterranean flare to jazz dinner up. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Mark .. simple spaghetti is wonderful isn't it .. I had it with garlic on Elba - and just delighted in the loveliness of it ..

@ Yvonne .. thank goodness for the snow that year .. she's an iconic read still - many friends and I still interact on her flavours end descriptions ...

@ Julie - it still is - both my uncle and my mother used it .. at home and in the Nursing Centre ...

Hers is an interesting story - not many of us have that experience of life ...

@ Ros - I find that strange .. but in fact I didn't come across her til I was a little older: the Cordon Bleu school had come in and I was hooked on their recipes .. and I don't think my mother had her books ... so I had to find them as I grew up.

Some people just don't agree with peppers - I know and understand that ...

The weather is grotty - snow down here yesterday and in London, and here again today .. I just hope it breaks and we get some sun!!

@ Francene - had you not heard of her either .. I thought this was someone whom most would know ... so I'm bemused!

@ Sue - how delicious to have a baker and confectioner in the family - while most of us grew up the simple way .. meat and two veg - and we couldn't get the ingredients then - unless we lived in London (which we didn't).

Marguerite Patten was an excellent alternative .. and gosh you learned the hard way being head-cook-and -bottle washer ...

My mother and I were (are) adventurous with our recipes ... and after my parents separated my father too ...

I'm sure many people after the War were influenced by their feelings ... my father too ...

Elizabeth David was an early adopter and encourager of trying things she knew were good for us .. and more fun to eat, giving us more choice.

Today - I'm sure we'll be reverting to very sparse recipes .. and too have some early cookbooks ..

The hay box - one of our squash team before I left for South Africa would bring supper through in a Hay Box ... I kid you not .. and it's fairly commonly used now in various settings ... but isn't something we'd necessarily think to do ..

Thanks Sue - great points .. and the Hay Box is an interesting thought .. cheers Hilary

@ Maria .. good to see you - and I'm glad you enjoyed the post on our British heritage - Elizabeth David has to take some credit for that ...

She certainly gave many a new wife, with a well-off husband, some new ideas ...

Enjoy the Challenge ..

@ Deniz - snap!!

Hope you enjoy your dig into her recipes .. I love that cover though ...

@ Manzanita .. nope poor Basil got left out in the cold! And yes, if we're one of the lucky Englanders we can cook our food on an Aga - if not then we remember those days!!

@ Clarissa - oh I couldn't agree more - the flavours and tastes just make so much difference ... Mexico must offer you great choices in foods ...

@ Jo - it's interesting isn't it to learn about her back story ...

@ Bob - good for you - I've added an admiration notch to your staff!!


Cheers to you all .. so lovely to see everyone - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Teresa - those early memories are so important and we don't forget the fireside ones ... or food in the kitchen ...

@ Gattina - that sounds a marriage made in Heaven as far as food is concerned!!! happily married for 44 years is pretty impressive too ..

That's good your kitchen is just as you like it - it certainly helps with the meals coming out ...

@ Damyanti .. A different take on life .. and Nigella was doing wonders as she had to contend with her journalist husband dying of throat cancer in the house, while she did those early tv shows.

@ Lee - I can see you in your kitchen beaming that laughing smile at all comers - and serving up delicious nosh with lots of warmth and love ...

We do have such good foods from around the world now - I'd rather have fresh and local and those speciality overseas as treats ..

@ Lisa - sorry (enjoy lunch/dinner later on!) - delighted you're enjoy the posts ... thank you.

@ Tracy - appreciate your comment .. and the Mediterranean flavours do add zing don't they ..

Thanks to you all .. lovely comments and I appreciate them all .. cheers Hilary

storytreasury said...

I never knew olive oil was used for ear wax. Or that once upon a time you couldn't find in stores. LOL

Story Treasury

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

When I was a little girl, my mother would heat up olive oil for my earaches. Today they warn against putting anything warm in the ear when it's aching. Apparently you risk bursting the ear drum. Who knew. Course, that never happened either.

Thank you, Miss Hilary, for a more informative post.

M Pax said...

Mmm, now I want some spaghetti. I love trying different food cultures. It's fun.

JoJo said...

I admit, when I went to England on a school trip in 1982 I was forewarned how bland British food was. Because it was a school trip, we were fed en masse with a pre-selected menu. It was awful. I ate Flake Bars, Lion Bars and orange Quash the entire time I was there.

Janie Junebug said...

I've never heard of her. That's very interesting.

Love,
Janie

Val Poore said...

I've never heard of her either, Hilary. It constantly amazes me to see what you come up with here. With such a totally English name, you'd expect her to be a second Mrs Beaton :-)

Tina said...

Olive oil dissolves ear wax? Did you really say that? Nice to know some history of British cookery evolved.

Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

Julie Flanders said...

It's always so inspiring when someone creates something magical out of despair. What a great story. And great food, I'm sure. :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I have a bunch of cookbooks, but I'm not familiar with this lady. But on the other hand, I HAVE had olive oil put into my ear. HEATED olive oil. When I was a kid, my parents used it as a home remedy for earaches. (Believe me, if the oil was too hot, the earache felt a lot better than that hot oil!)

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

As you will understand, what with you doing the alternate to my alphabet challenge, I struggle to keep up. Apologies and thus I'm here today.

She certainly brought a different outlook on the British eating habits. And of course, a Mediterranean diet is a most healthy way. I wonder if she used spaghetti from the 'spaghetti tree'?

Thank you for this, Hilary. Enjoy the sunshine, I hope.

Gary

Lynn said...

Mediterranean food is my favorite. I make spaghetti with olive oil and parmesan cheese a lot.

Laura Eno said...

I love Mediterranean food - pastas and cheese and oliver oil - oops. Now I'm hungry right before bedtime.
It's funny how much influence one person had on a country's eating habits!

Chuck said...

Your mention of eggplant reminded me of how it's been since I had one of my favorite dishes...eggplant parmesan w/olive oil.

A mouth-watering post Hilary. Thank you.

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

Glynis said...

I love the Mediterranean food, and take it for granted in Cyprus.I smiled when you mentioned the Olive Oil for ears. My mother/i/law nigh on fainted when I took a bottle home from our chemist shop, and introduced it to my kitchen cupboard.

Thank goodness for Elizabeth, and her book. Thanks for sharing!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sonia - a strange but true fact about olive oil!

@ Joylene - well ideas adapt don't they .. room temperature was the requirement at the Nursing Centre, while my uncle warmed his on the back of his Aga!

I can imagine if the oil was really too hot - the ear drum might react drastically!

Glad you enjoyed the post Mrs Nowell Butler!

@ Mary - actually now you've got me thinking about spaghetti .. and lunch even is a while away. Thanks - new things are interesting to learn about ..

@ JoJo - you're probably right - food in institutions was pretty awful ... though I was lucky my school food was pretty good.

How ghastly a diet of chocolate, biscuits and then Squash ... ah ah - perhaps I'll ask you to update my post where I try to explain Squash - impossible!!

@ Janie - she was an amazing writer and food journalist .. lived life to the full too!

@ Val - I'm surprised .. but she was the innovator straight after the War .. so perhaps just a little before our time.

Now Mrs Beeton - is another story .. one I should write about.

@ Tina - yes I did say exactly that! Strange but true re olive oil ... and it's still in use in Nursing Centres, and as a home remedy ...

@ Julie - after the terrible weather we've been having .. good things can appear - and thank goodness that she was able to open London's eyes, which then spread once rationing had stopped in the early 1950s ..

.. it was magic out of despair .. and, as you say, absolutely delicious food.

@ Susan - she is a standard bearer .. often bought for her writing and descriptions, as much for her recipes ... tantalising us to try Mediterranean foods - over time we did and grateful we were!!

@ Gary - your upside down alphabet cake floors me!!

Getting round - we do what we can don't we .. and I love your take on the A-Z challenge .. and there are some lovely new blogs to find.

Did you know I wrote about the spaghetti tree?

Pleasure .. she gave us decent food - and I thank her for that .. and today I am sitting in the sunshine - bliss: that makes so much difference to the recent snow. Great to see you ...

@ Lynn - sounds like supper with you would be excellent - love the thought of simple foods ..

@ Laura - she certainly opened up our eyes to food in the Med .. and has been and still is a major influencer - an author to refer back to ...

@ Chuck - aubergine parmigiana (or melanzane alla parmigiana) ... I haven't had either for years - and I used to make it quite often.

Glad you enjoyed it - and let me know when you make a dish to enjoy once again ..

@ Glynis - I can imagine Cyprus must have been wonderful for Mediterranean foods - and I do hope they can all sort themselves out - as the crisis has affected everyone and some very badly. I'm glad to read your blog post on D for dreams .. thanks for updating us that all is not lost.

As your husband was a chemist and you had your shop and were a nurse .. I'm sure your MIL was somewhat taken aback by the surgical olive oil in your kitchen cupboard ... I'll be laughing about that for a while.

Thank goodness for Elizabeth and her recipes and forward thinking ideas .. too true ..

Thanks everyone - wonderful to read your thoughts on food and earache!!

Cheers Hilary

Munir said...

British Cooking has a grandeur of it's own. To add yet a further zing must make it even more glamorous.

TALON said...

Hilary, I smiled at the Basil reference...I have a cousin named Basil who lives in Sussex, UK. Funny how some names remain so linked to their countries...I've never met a Canadian Basil! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Munir - well thankfully Ms David opened our eyes to new cuisines.

@ Talon - did you realise I live in Sussex? My memory of Basil is that of Keats' poem "A Pot of Basil" .. horrid and sad!

Then I have to eat basil with tomatoes and mozzarella and it tastes delicious!!

Basil comes from the Indian subcontinent .. but the sweet basil we use - is that the Italians add to their foods ..

We have names from all over don't we ..

Cheers to you both .. Hilary

Rhonda said...

LOL - we still use olive oil in ears and I guess we eat very British, as I didn't need any of your American terms in the ().

Rhonda @Laugh-Quotes.com
AtoZ #41

Sue Travers said...

The wonders of new, exotic foods! I can remember when spaghetti only came in tins! Why on earth did we do this?! Learning to cook with the strange foods was initially rather nerve-wracking, but how we've come on!
A very tasty post!
cheers
Sue

Mary Aalgaard said...

Thank God, for Elizabeth David. Such lovely, delicious food.

Play off the Page

Sara said...

I remember the first time I visited England. Everyone warned me about the food, but they were wrong or hadn't visited in a long time. I found the food delicious.

Today, London is the most cosmopolitan food city in the world, in my opinion.

Thanks for letting me know about Elizabeth David. She definitely made an impression:~)

CMSmith said...

The spaghetti with olives looks great. All of these things are new to me, the author, some of the dishes and attitudes, I find this series fascinating. Thanks for taking the time and putting the effort into it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Rhonda .. you're not alone - the National Health Service does too .. though it's purer than the oil we use to cook with .. New Zealand does have very British roots doesn't it ..

@ Sue - yes I remember spaghetti in tins and it was revolting .. I really disliked it! It's interesting how tastes travel and compared to post War we live in a different world with every flavour available to us .. quite extraordinary to think about ..

@ Mary - good to see you .. and yes wasn't Elizabeth David a godsend.

@ Sara - we had austere times .. thankfully we have choice now - though the austere times are back. I'm glad your experience was better than anticipated!

London is so cosmopolitan .. and I completely agree with you. I'm glad I introduced you to Elizabeth David she's a huge influence on our culinary history.

@ Christine - I love fresh spaghetti with simple ingredients ... I'm so delighted you're enjoying my take on Aspects of British Cookery ..

Lovely to see you all and I so appreciate your additions to the post and comments .. cheers Hilary