Chocolate, fur coats and other thoughts from Elizabeth David’s “Summer Cooking”

In spite of the presence of other influential cookery writers on my bookshelves, I invariably turn to Elizabeth David for inspiration. A break from gardening, in the heat of the sun yesterday, found me drinking a glass of cool white wine under an olive tree. My thoughts went to the cover of E.D’s 1955 edition of “Summer Cooking” which shows a table setting in dappled light, with a plate of fritto misto mare and a glass of white wine, overlooking a blue sea through the leaves of vines and olive trees. Her books are a sort of lucky dip without the need of luck. Each dip results in a prize in the form of an unexpected idea, story or recipe. I love her style of writing. There is a primness that belies the exciting and glamorous character that personified the real Elizabeth David. Her knowledge of cooking comes from credible sources. As a young woman she spent time living with a middle class French family and thus gained a real understanding of Cuisine Bourgeoise. Her knowledge of Mediterranean and Greek food was gained in situ, sometimes living as a peasant, but always involved in producing food to eat or share, not to sell. Therein lies my love of cooks and distrust, or disinterest, in chefs. I feel that chefs have as much to do with our cooking as Formula 1 racing drivers have to do with our daily drive to work in a traffic jam. They are there for us to applaud, and to gasp, in wonder and amazement, at their pointless “tours de force”. They are there to prise money from our pockets, to demand an undeserved respect for doing exactly what they want to do, whilst being as unpleasant as possible to underlings, unless being watched by their adoring public on one of the many vacuous TV programmes that thrive on the “personality” zeitgeist. I should mention that the most respected of English chefs, notably Alastair Little, Simon Hopkinson, Rowley Leigh and Fergus Henderson, are not amongst that breed. Maybe that is because they are first and foremost cooks, and secondly chefs. I’ve eaten their food on many occasions but never on a bed of anything or with a foam of anything else. Back to “Summer Cooking”. I always seem to have an excess of egg whites stored in cups in the fridge, and man cannot live on meringues alone. Lo and behold, the page at which I open the book has a recipe with the alluring 50’s title of “Chocolate Chinchilla” and its main attraction for me is the opening phrase “A good recipe for using whites of eggs”. Her ingredients are not carefully listed in columns nor are the cooking operations overly described, she assumes we will be adult and  literate enough to follow simple instructions. Thus I grated chocolate for the first time, and not for the last, as the smell and sight of it is fantastic. The chocolate was added to 6 whipped egg whites, with the addition of a spoonful of ground coffee, before being tipped into a soufflé dish and steamed, uncovered, for 50 minutes. The result was a deliciously light and moist chocolate cake/pudding with brown and white speckles as would be seen in a non PC, and very 50’s, chinchilla fur coat.

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in Cooking, Digital photography, Elizabeth David, food, Food and Photography, France, Photography holiday, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Chocolate, fur coats and other thoughts from Elizabeth David’s “Summer Cooking”

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