Elizabeth David

(1913—1992) writer on cookery

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British cookery writer who revolutionized eating habits in post-World War II Britain. She was appointed CBE in 1986.

Born in Sussex, the daughter of MP Rupert Sackville Gwynne, Elizabeth David went to live in France at the age of sixteen. Lodging with a French family in Paris and studying French history and literature at the Sorbonne, she found French cuisine a revelation. Subsequent periods spent living in Italy, India, Greece, and Egypt (where she worked for the Ministry of Information during World War II) enabled her to develop cosmopolitan tastes and to learn a wide range of culinary skills.

She married Lieutenant-Colonel Ivan David in 1944 (the marriage was dissolved in 1960) and returned with him to England in 1947. Finding British cooking bland and unappealing, she wrote a series of books on continental cooking – Mediterranean Food (1950), French Country Cooking (1951), Italian Food (1954), Summer Cooking (1955), and French Provincial Cooking (1960) – that found a ready market. As postwar rationing ended, British people, long used to a spartan diet, began – through David's books – to see food as an occasion for creativity rather than simply a means of sustenance. David also exerted an enormous influence through her newspaper and magazine columns, notably in The Sunday Times, the Spectator, and Vogue. In the following decade she set about revitalizing traditional British cookery, publishing Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen (1970) and the authoritative English Bread and Yeast Cookery (1977). A selection of essays and autobiographical writings, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, appeared in 1984.

Subjects: Literature — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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