Saturday, 21 March 2009

And You Thought Nigella was Sexy...

It looks as though I'll need to go back to the library if I'm to tell you the name of the book I want to tell you about; that's the book that made me buy another book after finding the second book in another library. Confusing, isn't it?

It was a couple of years ago when I got bored with fiction and went on a women's biography reading kick. Biographies because I wanted to see what other people had done with their lives that was apparently worth writing about; women because I may have been looking for a role model. I read a biography and an autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt and learned that each could be illuminating. I read an authorised and an unauthorised version about someone else and found the latter are far more interesting. I read about Goldie Hawn and Hillary Clinton and many others I can't name though I knew the names when I chose the books.

Then there were many I read about women I'd never heard of before. I read about some woman found living in a house in the Yorkshire Dales without utilities, still tending cattle through the winters into her 80's; her hardships and independence were impressive. I read about two women who bought an island off the coast and made a living growing daffodils and about another lone woman who worked a croft on a bare western isle of Scotland. I didn't need to have heard of the person, the book just had to catch my interest and so I found the biography of Elizabeth David. These articles tell you a bit about her. Suffice it to say she lived an interesting life.

So when I found her cookbooks at the Lit Phil library near my office, I found a great way to spend my lunch hours. She doesn't just give you a recipe, she gives you her opinions and outlook as well.
I haven't actually used her recipes as yet, but I do feel much more confident about experimenting with food and throwing things together, which is probably the main reason I really enjoy cooking now.

Also, set in the time when she first published, just after WWII, I can easily see why they were so popular. As the links indicate, rationing continued in post-war Britain far longer than elsewhere. Traditional British food is nothing I would aspire to learn to cook. I'm not a big fan of kippers or pork pie, Yorkshire or black pudding. One can only consume so much fish and chips or so many pasties before ballooning to enormous size. Deprivation and hardship as a contribution to winning the war would be one thing; rationing and scarcity after it was supposedly won would have been another.

When they were published, reading her books was like a Mediterranean holiday, a vicarious visit to another lifestyle. During the last years of work I needed more than the usual number of vacations and her books were just the ticket.

You'd enjoy a Mediterranean holiday, wouldn't you?

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