Saturday, 2 June 2012
A Book of Mediterranean Food
I'm not going to wax lyrical about the book which bought a little of the warmth, colour and flavour of the Mediterranean to a cheerless post war Britain. I had never heard of the author until I was about 21 and become a mother, a friend gave me their old copy of Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking. I was enchanted. I still can't quite describe what is so bewitching about her books? Maybe her written instructions reminded me of my own grandmother's? Or is it the brief, simple and precise recipes and their lack of hyperbole? Maybe it's because it reminds me of becoming a mother and the early days of the most wonderful and fullfilling time, a time where I excelled in my new occupation and was spellbound with my beautiful baby daughter, I discovered motherhood and food. I was needed and I was blissfully content.
Food will never be written about in the same way again. Now cookery books are more about lifestyle with beautiful glossy photographs of stunning houses with perfect happy families blurred in the background. It's about selling the image.
In Mediterranean Food Elizabeth David wrote about food remembered from a time in her life, just before the war, when she was young and carefree. She wasn't preaching or patronising in her writing, she was just 'passing on' what she had seen, cooked and tasted. Most recipes are just a paragraph. No separate ingredient list, no temperatures, just 'quick' or 'slow' fire and no photos. It was honest, intelligent and very clipped writing, no pretence but just peppered with anecdotes and stylishy simple illustrations.
She didn't preach the 'chef's oath' which seems to have been taken by anyone who cooks on TV "I am passionate about food and only cook seasonal, local ingredients" I could scream every time I hear this mantra chanted by another 'chef' (ex model/actress/rugby player etc), it sends all my cringe nerves rattling; you're a chef, do you really think that we automatically think you use mouldy rotting fruit and veg to cook? Do we really care if it's local, surely all food is local to somewhere? It's like saying "Mm, I absolutely love breathing and use only the finest oxygen and carbon dioxide for my gaseous exchange"
I digress...., returning to the book in question, I have simply decided to cook every recipe in the book. I'm not trying to do a Julie & Julia, that would be naff and pretentious, I just need to get my act together with this blog and having a list of recipes to cook will make it a lot easier - I will have to cook what's written rather than remembering to photograph the occasional biscuit I may have been bothered to bake. It would also be really love to bring each recipe to life with a photo!
The first chapter is 'Soups' and the first recipe I will be cooking is Soup Au Pistou.....