Enjoying Elizabeth David

Ages ago my mother gave me Is There a Nutmeg in the House? Essays on Practical Cooking with more than 150 RecipesIs There a Nutmeg in the House?: Essays on Practical Cooking with more than 150 Recipes by Elizabeth David. I read some of it, and then put it down. The other day I picked it up again, and am enjoying it as much as I did the first time (I don't know why I ever put it down, frankly.) Her bold opinionated writing about food is refreshing and enjoyable and most interesting to me, it feels modern.

Though some of the writings in this collection date to the sixties and seventies, her opinions on whether one can substitute a bouillon cube when a recipe for stock ("Well, will a bouillon cube 'do'? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it will do nothing."), the excessive gadgetry of a "dream kitchen" ("And too much equipment is if anything worse than too little. I don't a bit covet the exotic gear dangling from hooks, the riot of clanking ironmongery, the armouries of knives, or the serried rank of sauté pans and all other carefully chosen symbols of culinary activity I see in so many photographs of chic kitchens."), and the "ogres of factory farming…and all those who push the just acceptable at the expense of the best," sound like they could have been written today.

Great food writing is a joy to read. Great food writing that stands the test of time is all the more impressive, especially considering the trials and trends of the culinary arts on both sides of the Atlantic. But Elizabeth David is there to remind us that great food is simply great ingredients that don't get all muddled up in the kitchen. And for that, I thank her.