All books written by Elizabeth David, including reprints of earlier editions, are absolute joys.
It was in 1954 that Italian Food written by Elizabeth David hit the UK book stores. It was a book destined to revolutionise the way UK cooks and their families, more used to years of rationing after World War II, looked at and thought about food, and different ways of cooking.
A welcome hardback publication of Italian Food’s 1987 edition
2019 sees a welcome hardback publication of Italian Food’s 1987 edition where the footnotes to recipes in previous editions had actually been incorporated into the main text and where a fairly major edit had taken place.
For many of us it taught us that actually a specific dish varies from region to region, there being no Italian national cuisine. Take a risotto for example – in northern Italy as Elizabeth points out it will have been made with butter, but in the south they prefer using oil.
A year of research in Italy
Elizabeth David lived in Italy for a year whilst researching this terrific book learning about different cuts of meat, of poultry, and the best way to prepare and cook them; touring fish markets – obviously the one near the Rialto Bridge in Venice was a favourite; making preserves and sauces; learning about cheeses and wines – absorbing herself totally in the entire Italian foody scene.
Recipe quantities are incorporated into text, rather than set out separately as in today’s modern day cook books, but the methods are precise and easy to follow, often with a little aside or suggestion – Tortellini alla Panna warrants the comment that they are ‘rich and very filling’.
Recipes, travel, history all creep into the text
Travel notes creep into the text – all written in her eloquent enchanting easily read prose, which makes the reader want to travel to wherever to experience it for themselves; in other sections we are treated to a history lesson, or comments from Italian writers and thinkers; all of them interesting and fascinating.
Italian Food is as relevant and inspirational a cookery book today as it was 60 years ago when Elizabeth David first put pen to paper.
Italian Food. Elizabeth David. ISBN: 978-1-911621-29-4. Hardback. £14.99. Grub Street. www.grubstreet.co.uk