South Wind through the Kitchen:

The Best of Elizabeth David

Elizabeth David (1913-1992) changed the way we think about, write about, prepare, and enjoy food. Her first two books, Mediterranean Food (1950) and French Country Cooking (1951), were a celebration of everything fresh, tasty, simple, and delightful, and they struck a decisive one-two punch against British postwar cooking. David’s wit, her love of pleasure, her appeal to the senses and the imagination – not to mention her delicious recipes – sparked a revolution of taste in Great Britain: boiled carrots and canned ham suddenly gave way to olive oil and sea salt, sprigs of rosemary and whole basil leaves, seasonal produce and fresh pasta. Here was something new in the cold, gray world: a food writer who was stimulating, opinionated, informative, and funny, a wonderful companion in both the library and the kitchen.

South Wind Through the Kitchen is the best of Elizabeth David, selected from her nine books by her literary executor. Here are classic essays on the food of Provence and of Paris, on Italian fish markets and Middle Eastern herb gardens. There are nearly 200 recipes: appetizers, soups, eggs, fish, meat, poultry, vegetables, sauces, breads, preserves, and desserts. Whether discussing the pains of rolling puff pastry or the ease of making pizza, railing against the practices of English bakeries or praising the sausage rolls at the Hôtel du Midi, David always speaks her own mind. Best of all, she’s a contagious enthusiast: she makes you want to rise from your chair to travel, shop, or try your hand at an omelette. “Reading her,” writes Julian Barnes, “you have a strong sense of a person whose cardinal principles are truth and pleasure. Perhaps it is not absurd to compare her effect on a certain sector of tired, hungry, impoverished fifties Britain with Kinsey’s effect on America.”


Jill Norman is the former editor of the Penguin Cookery Library and the author of several cookbooks, including The Complete Book of Spices and The Cook’s Book. She lives in the Hague with her husband, an antiquarian bookseller.  

Julian Barnes is the author of ten novels, including Flaubert’s Parrot, England, England, and Arthur & George. He is a collector and connoisseur of cookbooks, and a self-described pedant in the kitchen.