Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David

Artemis Cooper, Author
Artemis Cooper, Author Ecco $27.5 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-019828-2
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-0-14-026377-0
Paperback - 402 pages - 978-0-571-27960-9
Hardcover - 363 pages - 978-0-7181-4224-7
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Elizabeth David's vibrant writing and elegant recipes have earned the respect of famous gourmets like Alice Waters and Julia Child, but acolytes of the doyenne of cookbook writers may be disappointed by the dry prose of this authorized biography. David earned her reputation in the 1950s when, with books such as Mediterranean Food and French Country Cooking, she brought strong and simple flavors to the austere palates of postwar England. David was perhaps the first cookbook writer not to specialize in haute European cuisine, but rather to aspire to bring the flavors of the farmhouse to home tables. Although her books were and continue to be recognized as well organized and thorough, David's personal life was something of a shambles, with love affairs that didn't pan out, an unhappy marriage and an odd relationship with her sister Felicit , who served as her typist. Cooper, however, marshals these facts into chronological order and uses a straightforward tone that strips the anecdotes to their bare bones. David's childhood, for example, is dutifully chronicled (""Like most children Elizabeth hated vegetables""), but provides little hint of her later adventures. David was an avid traveler, and her early trips to France, Italy and Greece are obviously key, but they are reduced here to lists of people she met and places she stayed. Excerpts from David's own beautifully crafted books easily show up the dull prose that surrounds them, but fans looking for the stories that did not make their way into David's own books will find only facts to savor here. (Sept.)
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