Thursday, 3 December 2009

An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David

A legend in food writing, Elizabeth David arrived back in Britain in 1946 to find food severely rationed and olive oil only available from the chemists. She put her reminiscences of the food she’d enjoyed in the Mediterranean into her first book, Mediterranean Food, which appeared in 1950, followed by volumes on the food of Italy and provincial France.

David is rightly remembered for her writing as well as her cooking and An Omelette and a Glass of Wine is a delightful compilation of journalism and recipes that first appeared in The Spectator and Vogue among other publications.

In the article that gives the book its name, David sets out a simple philosophy for enjoying food and wine, in this case a cheese omelette and a glass of white:

I like white wines with all cheese dishes, and especially when the cheese in question is Gruyère. No doubt this is only a passing phase, because as a wine drinker but not a wine expert one’s tastes are constantly changing. But one of the main points about the enjoyment of food and wine seems to me to lie in having what you want when you want it and in the particular combination you fancy.

Of course, you may choose to finish your meal with a dessert, perhaps an apricot tart, washed down with something sticky:

The custom of drinking a little glass of rich wine with a sweet dish or fruit seems to me a civilized one, and especially welcome to those who do not or cannot swig brandy or port after a meal... The musky golden wine of Beaumes – according to Mr Asher, and I see no reason to quarrel with his judgement, ‘its bouquet is penetrating and flower-like, its flavour both honey-sweet and tangy’ – and the sweet apricots, vanilla-sugared on crumbly pastry, made an original and entrancing combination of food and wine.

I will finish with her memories of Norman Douglas, an old friend of David’s, whose South Wind I am eyeing up for a future post:

There, at a table outside the half-ruined house, a branch of piercingly aromatic lemons within arm’s reach, a piece of bread and a bottle of the proprietor’s olive oil in front of me, a glass of wine in my hand, Norman was speaking. ‘I wish you would listen when I tell you that if you fill my glass before it’s empty I shan’t know how much I’ve drunk.’

Sage advice indeed.

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