In the UK today you could be forgiven for thinking that the era condemned by Ms David in many of her writings was a figment of someone's imagination. Post-war shortages? Nasty and ersatz flavourings recommended as ingredients in recipes? Over-complicated and over-priced dishes in mediocre restaurants? How quaintly historic.
After all, we live surrounded by food and its images. There seem to be as many magazines featuring food as there are featuring improbably-breasted women on the top-shelf of the corner shop; book-stores are piled high with recipe books by chefs who have achieved celebrity status; and the question is often not 'does your local supermarket sell balsamic vinegar,' but, 'how many kinds, and where from, exactly'?
So what is the point of reading this (or indeed any) of Elizabeth David's books? The answer is as simple as the title of the book. David's culinary lifetime was spent in encouraging the fresh, the simple and above all the fitting meal. This is much more than giving hints and recipes, or stunning yourself and your guests with exotic and hard-to-achieve perfection, it is an attitude of mind about eating and appreciating food. Lost in a welter of food from every country and culture in the world (I even discovered an Inuit recipe for seal-blubber ice-cream the other day, which is one ingredient I suspect my supermarket-of-choice has not got around to selling, at least as yet), David's often ascerbic style when she writes about bad food provides as much relish as her descriptions of what is good.
And much as I might enjoy the occasional beautifully seared loin of some imported fish I've never tried before, on a bed of ginger and lemongrass flavoured veggies, with a something-or-other salsa,(to say nothing of the possibility of seal blubber ice-cream for pud), there are those days when only the perfectly simple will do. Perhaps a beautiful and simple omelette, with of course, a glass of chilled white wine. Enjoy!