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Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David by [Cooper, Artemis]
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Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Amazon Review

Although Elizabeth David was the very reverse of a recluse, she was famously reluctant to divulge information about herself to her readership, claiming that everything to be said was said in her books. We must take leave to doubt this, in the light of Artemis Cooper's Writing at the Kitchen Table, which follows on the heels of Lisa Chaney's Elizabeth David: A Mediterranean Passion. The more that is revealed about her, the more interesting she becomes. Artemis Cooper is the "authorised" biographer, writing with access to a mass of personal papers but this is not a hagiography. Mrs David, as crisply but sympathetically drawn in these pages, was a fascinating egotist, beautiful with a hard sensuality, generous but capable of furious rages and lasting grudges. She learned a valuable lesson in self-centredness from the quintessentially louche Norman Douglas, who in many ways seems to have been a key influence. Clearly she was not exactly a nice person, although it is encouraging (and not entirely surprising) to discover that she had a really dirty laugh--more of a cackle, in fact, it appears.

The story is well told: The patrician background she flouted (but not too much); the flight from England, greyness and failure; the rackety wartime years spent knocking around the Mediterranean in the company of high Bohemians such as Lawrence Durrell; the marriage of convenience in Cairo that at least gave her the status of a married woman but was soon abandoned; the lovers; the return to London and the start of a dazzling writing career; the fame and the status; the shop; the stroke that affected both palate and libido; the troubled later years. On none of this need she be judged and Artemis Cooper does not. After all, Elizabeth David was right. The best of her is in the writing; and the best of her was the precise, attentive, sensual appreciation of food and cooking. We must remember that above all she was an exquisitely skilful cook, whose influence, though mostly indirect, has been incalculable. It's all the more moving, then, to learn that at her funeral, "among the wreaths and baskets of flowers, and the violets she loved, someone had left a loaf of bread and a bunch of herbs tied up in brown paper." --Robin Davidson

Review

"[Elizabeth David] is to me probably the greatest food writer we have."-- James Beard"It can be said that Elizabeth David's discovery of Italy changed foreverthe serious cooks conception of Italian cuisine." -- Julia Child"Elizabeth David stood for: excellence of ingredients, simplicity of preparation, respect for tradition. She stood against: fuss, overdecoration, pretentiousness.... [She] wrote as she, cooked: with simplicity purity, color, [and] self-effacing authority."-- Julian Barnes, "The New Yorker""At last we have this vivid portrait of Elizabeth David by Artemis Cooper, who not only writes like an angel, but has done her research with great skill and obvious enjoyment."-- "Sunday Times" (London)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2734 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (16 Jun. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0056HINTC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #328,787 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 13 Feb. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I normally steer well clear of authorised accounts of people's lives after all the really interesting facts are invariably the very ones which people seek to hide. Elizabeth David being such a huge figure in the culinary world and the depth of research I perceived from merely a cursory glance at the index intrigued me enough to give it a whirl. While I can't say I'm ready to revise my longstanding rule I am glad I made the exception in this case. I can't help feeling however that through some of the stories presented the author could present a somewhat more revealing portrait of not constrained by the conditions of that fateful epithet.
Notwithstanding this is still a fine volume and bears many of the hallmarks of a classic. It would be of particular interest to foodies as well as anyone who was just after a collection of (true life) ripping yarns. David lead a remarkable life during turbulent times, travelled widely and wrote beautifully and authoritatively. She was reluctant however to reveal more of herself to her public than what was presented in her various classic treatises on food.
She remains one of the central figures in food literature and can be viewed in detail now as a thoroughly interesting character.
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Format: Hardcover
Rather than just tediously trawling through David's cookbooks Cooper sets this amazingly influential woman in her context of family, class ,lovers friends and time.
I found this an illuminating and very enjoyable book about a very talented but rather tragic woman . David is painted warts and all and I wholly disagree with the earlier review. Well worth buying .
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Format: Hardcover
This book doesn't warm up until about page 220, when Cooper has - finally - finished dissecting the lives of David's family, friends and acquaintances. There are whole wedges of pages you can skip if you want to read about David - Cooper, who has been given access to David's papers, takes the opportunity to analyse in depth the great writer's family background. She goes back several generations and, while the excuse might be that she does so to give the reader a grounding in David's background the result is sheer tedium as we read yet more about grandparents buying houses and godchildren taking exams. Good grief. Once she gets into the part of Elizabeth David's life when she was writing about cookery things move along a little more interestingly, but there's a lingering impression that all Cooper has done is précis David's papers and not spoken to any of her surviving friends and family. As a result, we know some of the detail of Elizabeth David's life but little of the emotion, apart from the small bits Cooper surmises from the papers. A very disappointing read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a disappointing book. It ought to be a rollicking good story. After all, it is the tale of an energetic young woman who brings the vibrancy and colour and richness and taste of the sunny Mediterranean to a dull, gray, drab post-war Britain. But this book captures none of that. It's a plodding recitation of facts punctuated with dozens of dull characters who appear for no reason and disappear soon after. I'm sure it's fine as a reference book. But it's a dull read.
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