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Elizabeth David/Julia Child   Go to last post Go to last unread
#1 Posted : Sunday, June 27, 2021 6:05:47 AM(UTC)

I often use the recipe search when I'm looking for some inspiration for an ingredient I'm looking to use.


Every so often a recipe will be thrown up from the likes of Elizabeth David or Julia Child etc. I always check them out as I really do want to cook from these cookbook authors but just one look at the actual recipe and I'm eeeek! and decide not to. 


I consider myself a proficient cook but find the older recipes hard going. To give an example E. D. has a recipe for Pistou in "A book of Mediterranean Food" that amounts to about one twentieth the size of the recipe I actually used from "Provence: A Cookbook" by Caroline Rimbert Craig.


Is this a common 'fear'? 


How do others approach older recipes?


Thanks

#2 Posted : Tuesday, June 29, 2021 1:51:10 PM(UTC)

We cooked from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one of our podcast episodes and found the recipes to be really great, if time-consuming! If it's of interest, I'm including the link below. Elizabeth David is coming up, so will let you know what we think... 


https://shows.acast.com/the-cookbook-circle

#4 Posted : Thursday, July 1, 2021 9:51:39 PM(UTC)

Originally Posted by: Indio32 Go to Quoted Post
How do others approach older recipes?


For some of us, the older recipes you reference were current recipes when we were learning to cook. I was in high school when Julia Child's first published so my college summers/college graduate out on my own cooking was when "everyone" was using Julia Child as their "entertaining friends" cookbook. As for Elizabeth David, I fear my group was more inclined to the Tassajara Bread Book, Laurel's KitchenThe Vegetarian EpicureMoosewood Cookbook, Invitation to Indian Cooking, Japanese Country Cooking ... once we left the Fannie Farmer, Rombauer, Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens... we grew up on. We looked towards Asia not Europe.

#5 Posted : Friday, July 2, 2021 1:09:39 AM(UTC)

I was gifted with a copy of Elizabeth David's "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine" when I was in college. And it is definitely for either the food tourist -- "what's in that anyway" or the accomplished or brave cook who can work from sparse instructions. All I remember from it now, is that I did indeed master the French omelette under its tutelage. Thumbing through it now, I think it's time I gave it another look with more experienced eyes.

#3 Posted : Sunday, July 4, 2021 10:51:17 AM(UTC)

Originally Posted by: thecookbookcircle Go to Quoted Post
We cooked from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one of our podcast episodes and found the recipes to be really great, if time-consuming! If it's of interest, I'm including the link below. Elizabeth David is coming up, so will let you know what we think... 


https://shows.acast.com/the-cookbook-circle


Jumped straight to the podcast and the Julia episode. Have decided to try the ratatouille as you did*. Fantastically all the ingredients are now fully in season so should be delicious! I probably shouldn't be surprised but there's also a fair bit of stuff on YouTube. 


* having just come back to follow up my post I've just realised it's YOUR podcast..... cool!! Have subscribed and really enjoyed the other 2 episodes I've listened to so far.... Sam Clark & Nigel Slater. Looking forward to listening to the others. If I may, and its probably because I'm a bloke but it does sometimes lapse into being a bit giggly at times but apart from that lots more please!

#6 Posted : Sunday, July 4, 2021 11:19:37 AM(UTC)

Originally Posted by: Indio32 Go to Quoted Post
I often use the recipe search when I'm looking for some inspiration for an ingredient I'm looking to use.


Every so often a recipe will be thrown up from the likes of Elizabeth David or Julia Child etc. I always check them out as I really do want to cook from these cookbook authors but just one look at the actual recipe and I'm eeeek! and decide not to.


In my younger years, I cooked a lot from Julia Child and sometimes Paul Bocuse when experimenting with more involved dishes.  Other times for simpler dishes,  Pierre Franey, Joy of Cooking, Better Homes, Sunset, etc.  Had to look up up Elizabeth David as I have never heard of her. 

#7 Posted : Sunday, July 4, 2021 3:39:33 PM(UTC)

Rinshin - never heard of Elizabeth David? OK she was very much a postwar English phenomenon - but what a phenomenon - surely got to the US of A?


Were you joking?

#8 Posted : Sunday, July 4, 2021 4:49:21 PM(UTC)

Originally Posted by: RaySadler Go to Quoted Post
Rinshin - never heard of Elizabeth David? OK she was very much a postwar English phenomenon - but what a phenomenon - surely got to the US of A?


Were you joking?


no, not joking.  Never heard of her.

#9 Posted : Wednesday, July 7, 2021 2:07:04 PM(UTC)

Well, I'm British, so Elizabeth David, an English writer who had lived around the Mediterranean, was the goddess we followed in my youth, and I only heard of Julia Child much later


ED started writing when Britain was still in rationing following WW2, and kept going. Her later books were edited by the great Jill Norman who still lives in London, I've met her - she also writes cookbooks. If anyone wants to know about ED I strongly recommend Artemis Cooper's biography, Writing at the Kitchen Table


 I was at university in London 1972 to  1975, and that's when I started cooking from ED's books, starting with the 2 French ones, as having been brought up in a channel port, I'd been to France several times. I could cook, but it was basic and so was my equipment


I didn't find it too difficult - you could reasonably argue that she was more of a food writer than a recipe developer until Jill Norman started chivvying her, but she was by all accounts a superb cook, and she described what she did. There are slip ups - don't make moussaka in a loose base cake tin as she suggests, and in fact don't make the topping by her method. She often tells you to cut meat into 2 inch squares, thickness unspecified, but I assume she is starting with a thick slice, perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick which is how meat for cooking in a sauce is generally sold in both England and France


But most of the recipes work well, I think she slightly underused herbs, but that's personal taste. If my pals and I could use the books as fairly impractical 18 year olds, you really shouldn't be scared, I'm sure you are far more competent than we were nearly 50 years ago!


The basis of my "French" cooking is still hers, and my French partner recognised it as good French home cooking - better than his mother's but not quite up to his lovely cousin's!

#10 Posted : Friday, July 9, 2021 2:23:55 PM(UTC)

Thanks for sharing your cooking odessy StokeySue.  I think the perception has changed, but in the 60's through early 80's, Brititsh cooking was not well thought of in the US esp in western states where Mexican and Asian influences are  stronger.  I did live in eastern state of Pennsylvania in my teen years for few years, but their cooking was influenced by PA Dutch, Italians, and Germans.  I became interested in world cuisines while living on sub-tropical island of Okinawa.  Speaking of moussaka, my favorite recipe even now is from that period using military wives cookbook along with 4-5 other favorite recipes from that cookbook.  


Although by the time Julia Child and Paul Bocuse became familiar names in the US, I was already interested in French cooking style and making various recipes.  But, it was Julia Child that elevated my interest. Thank you Julia and Jacques Pepin!


Now, I like some contemporary British chefs and cookbook authors.  Although Jamie Oliver has been around for a while, I was not interested in his cooking until recently.  Being 30% British and 20% French, I have decided to acquaint myself with some more common British recipes such as cottage and shepherds pies, etc.  But, whenever we are in Japan for more than a month, it is Mexican foods we miss the most and usually stop by Mexican restaurant as soon as we are back in California. 

#11 Posted : Sunday, July 11, 2021 10:51:35 AM(UTC)

You won't find British recipes in most of Elizabeth David's books. She taught French, Italian and other Mediterannean cuisines to generations of British cooks, starting in the 1950s.


To go back to the original question, I don't generally find her recipes difficult. Perhaps they assume a certain level of confidence in the kitchen, but I appreciate the way she can convey the essence of a process in just a few lines. The prose is often beautiful too.

#12 Posted : Monday, July 12, 2021 10:33:50 AM(UTC)

The perception of British food in the 25 years following WW2 was generally poor, sometimes even in Britain


But as Roger said, and I thought I'd suggested, the point about Elizabeth David is that she didn't, initally at least write about British/English food, and is credited with a significant improvement in British cooking


These are her books, with dates, she was way ahead of the pack



  • A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950)

  • French Country Cooking (1951)

  • Italian Food (1954)

  • Summer Cooking (1955)

  • French Provincial Cooking (1960)

  • Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen (1970 - a rather scholarly, historical view though plenty of recipes

  • English Bread and Yeast Cookery (1977-  another historical study with tested reipes)

  • Elizabeth David Classics (1980)

  • An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (1984)

#13 Posted : Sunday, July 18, 2021 6:26:34 AM(UTC)

Thanks everyone for the replies.


I wasn't expecting many non-cooks to know who (especially) Elizabeth David was. I wonder how much of the world would have heard of Jamie Oliver had he been around in the '50s!


I've spent the last 10 days or so going through both E.D & J.C's books in a more methodical way i.e. reading the introductions and stepping through some of the recipes without cooking them. I found they were much more approachable when I could see the thinking behind the presentation. There's substantially more hand holding in recipes these days so for me it was about letting go of the idea that my result was going to be 100% identical to that of the recipe author's. To be honest thats quite liberating. 


I've made 2 of J.C's recipes so far..... Vichyssoise & Ratatouille and both were fantastic.

#14 Posted : Wednesday, July 21, 2021 1:14:02 AM(UTC)

In California, fourth-grade-kids learn about their home state that year (age 9), so one night my daughter brought home a list of famous Californians to choose one for a report and project.  I advised her that her dad would be delighted if she picked Julia Child, and lo and behold, he was-- coming up in a family that was very much a matriarchy, my husband gets a kick out of any grande dame.  :) They found a Julia app with snippets from her shows, found the funniest J.C. clips on YouTube including the David Letterman ones, and dived into his previously untouched Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  And that's how we have quiche and potage parmentiere in the rotation at our house, among other things.  :)

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