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Elizabeth David [Paperback]

Lisa Chaney
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Sep 1999
This biography is of Elizabeth David, who transformed British attitudes to cooking and eating with the publication of "Mediterranean Food" at a time when the country was still in the grey grip of rationing. Her descriptions of dishes caught the imagination of a post-war generation.

Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Books; New edition edition (10 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330367625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330367622
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 416,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

The immense allure of the late Elizabeth David's writings--at least in the early books of the 1950s with which she made her name--rests not so much in the recipes which are their ostensible subject as in the vividly rendered evocations of the landscapes, the harbours and marketplaces of the Mediterranean where she gathered them and which so dazzled in the austerity of post-war Britain. The introductory sections of French Provincial Cooking, for example, describing the regions of France and their cuisines, are seductive travel writing of the highest order. Yet the author herself, though present, remains elusive. There are hints of the details of a life: she was, after all Mrs David (but who was Mr David?); there are the habitual references to "we" in the accounts of the travels; there is the intriguing friendship with the raffish Norman Douglas. Lisa Chaney's Elizabeth David exhaustively fill the gaps between these biographical scraps. The picture that emerges is a mixture of the expected and the unexpected. The expected includes the patrician, cosmopolitan upbringing, the travelling, the wide circle of artistic, bohemian friends. The unexpected might include rebellion against her family, and an early (unsuccessful) attempt at a career on the stage; flight from England and all it represented; greyness and failure; on a yacht with a rather exotic lover just before the outbreak of war. The wartime Mediterranean exile that followed was what crystallised, on her return to England at the end of the war, into the writing career we are more familiar with. Lisa Chaney brings an impressive richness of detail and a fine empathy to bear on the this life of a complex, often troubled woman who was unquestionably the finest food writer in English of the 20th Century. --Robin Davidson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Macmillan, says
‘The book has the serious purpose and sense of balance of the historian infused with sympathy and the warmth of admiration for what Ms David stood for and what she achieved. It respects her without being respectful…A remarkably rounded and convincing portrait.’ GUARDIAN

‘This book provides a fuller and better appreciation of Elizabeth David’s work than has previously appeared anywhere. The author’s background in the arts, besides her enthusiasm for food and cookery, give her insights which few other writers would be capable of matching… Lisa Chaney, sympathetic but candid throughout, has done a fine job and has drawn a full and convincing portrait of an extraordinary personality.’ Alan Davidson, EVENING STANDARD

‘Chaney writes particularly well throughout on the roots of Elizabeth David’s interest in food, and on how her writing is about so very much more than food.’ Minette Marrin, LITERARY REVIEW

‘Worthy of its subject, well-written and quite brilliantly researched.’ Anne Scott-James, OLDIE

‘Chaney’s biography has enough detail to satisfy the most demanding David-worshipper…and is keenly alert to the wider cultural framework in which her subject operated.’ D.J. Taylor, MAIL ON SUNDAY

‘This thoughtful, meticulously researched biography illuminates the life and times of one of the most influential women of our century…An extraordinary talent, an extraordinary life, expertly unravelled in a biography worthy of its subject.’ Elisabeth Luard, THE TIMES

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More about the bad boys please 13 Dec 1999
Where to shelve the Elizabeth David is a dilemma for most foodies. Literature? History? Travel? maybe even - for the true believer - Theology? The appeal of her books has never really been the recipes themselves but her talent for conveying the sheer sensuousness of food. What slave to the supermarket wouldn't be captivated by the thought of picking their way through piles of yellow peppers in the markets of Capri? or discovering the perfect tart aux mirabelles in that little pastry shop in the Dordogne? But while we are never in any doubt about Ms David's feelings for packet sauce she is much less forthcoming about herself. "All there is to know about me is in my books" she said, and to a degree she's right; the autocratic tone, the advice to always keep a careful eye on the butcher, the occasional "we" and the ever present glass of wine do provide clues. For those left wanting more Lisa Chaney's biography tells almost all. While Chaney is admirably restrained, writing in reverent "not one to gossip" tones, she does allow her extensive range of interviewees to dish the dirt. "Intolerant", "wilful", "rude", "self centred", "a terrible handful", "very grande dame", "acerbic", "litigious", "tetchy" and "possessing an excess of fury" are just a small selection of the terms applied to Elizabeth - often by people described as friends. While many won't be too appalled by the bitchiness, booze and bad boys there is something profoundly shocking in Ms David's fondness for - gasp! - Nescafe!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is a wonderfully detailed account of a fascinating complex figure and her life-it lacks the seductive prose of its subject, alas, and although the photographs are excellent, one wishes for more-of her house and of her marvelous kitchens.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elisabeth David 4 April 2009
I am a great fan of Elisabeth David. I own most of the books, she has written and have learned a lot about cooking from her. Her recipes give the food the authentic flavour of the food of the counties they are from.
The biography has made me understood a lot about the woman whose skills as a writer and cook has been such a joy to me. The book loyal to Elisabeth David, is entertaining and well written.
It is also a well designed book.
I have given it to my daughter, who has read it and enjoyed it.
I can add, that I have met Elisabeth David when she attended a food arrangement in Forum in Copenhagen, where I went to thank her. And I have visited her shop in London, which, alas is not there anymore.
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