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Sir Jim

Reyner Banham, 22 May 1980

Memoirs of an Unjust Fella: An Autobiography 
by J.M. Richards.
Weidenfeld, 279 pp., £10, March 1980, 9780297777670
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... entries, of which three-quarters are people, from Aalto to Zuckermann, taking in Fidel Castro, Elizabeth David, Erskine Childers, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Robert Byron, Lawrence Durrell, Le Corbusier, Malcolm MacDonald, Tambimuttu ... and Donald Maclean. It is completely typical of the whole book that Maclean (whom he knew at school at Gresham’s) is ...

Lamb’s Tails

Christopher Driver, 19 June 1986

All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present 
by Stephen Mennell.
Blackwell, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 631 13244 9
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Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the 14th Century including ‘The Forme of Cury’ 
edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.
Oxford, for the Early English Text Society, 224 pp., £6.50, April 1985, 0 19 722409 1
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The English Cookbook 
by Victor Gordon.
Cape, 304 pp., £12.50, November 1985, 0 224 02300 4
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... see Mrs Elton leafing through A la Carte as a substitute for actual cooking, and Emma consulting Elizabeth David for instruction in the matter of marrow-bones. Wherever the daily human comedy of manners is deployed as a cloak for our brute, indispensable appetites and satisfactions, food and drink must be present or, if absent, must expect to have their ...

A Man’s Man’s World

Steven Shapin: Kitchens, 30 November 2000

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly 
by Anthony Bourdain.
Bloomsbury, 307 pp., £16.99, August 2000, 0 7475 5072 7
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... conviction. It was, after all, Escoffier who instructed his disciples, ‘Faites simple,’ and Elizabeth David who memorialised La Mère Poulard’s response to a Parisian restaurateur’s request for the secret of her famous omelettes at the Auberge de Saint-Michel Tête d’Or: ‘Voici la recette de l’omelette: je casse de bons œufs dans une ...

Dissecting the Body

Colm Tóibín: Ian McEwan, 26 April 2007

On Chesil Beach 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 166 pp., £12.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 08118 4
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... with many opinions married to a successful businessman. (Florence’s mother has been a friend of Elizabeth David and is a friend of Iris Murdoch.) Both stories are set at a very precise date, with debates about socialism, Britain’s decline as a world power, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Both works exude a sense, alive in McEwan’s work ...

A Little Pickle for the Husband

Michael Mason, 1 April 1999

Beeton's Book of Household Management 
by Isabella Beeton.
Southover, 1112 pp., £29.95, November 1998, 9781870962155
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... something which was deplored even at the time of the centenary of publication 38 years ago, when Elizabeth David pointed out that the currently available Mrs Beeton didn’t contain a single recipe from the original. That this is an odd state of affairs does not of itself make a facsimile of the 1861 book an interesting object. People buy and use the ...


Jeremy Harding: Ash Dieback, 6 December 2012

... in Sylva for its being a guide for stewards and landowners. (You don’t need a spatula to enjoy Elizabeth David.) There was an ash tree outside our house in Kentish Town: I know because I had to ask the council to lop away some of the upper growth as it came closer to the bedroom window. (The ancient tree in James’s story is uncomfortably close to ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... age of 17, Florence Warden was taught by finishing governesses – she was not employed as one. Elizabeth Linington writes her Vic Varallo (not ‘Vatallo’) novels as Lesley Egan, not in her own name. There are two hands at work in the Alice Perrin entry, one of whom thinks the author published her first book in 1901 (wrong), another who thinks it was ...

Who is Lucian Freud?

Rosemary Hill: John Craxton goes to Crete, 21 October 2021

John Craxton: A Life of Gifts 
by Ian Collins.
Yale, 383 pp., £25, May, 978 0 300 25529 4
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... of Harold and Essie Craxton, who tumbled up in a ramshackle household in St John’s Wood. Elizabeth Jane Howard, who knew them all when she was young and later wove them into her Cazalet novels, described the Craxtons as exuding happiness like pollen, which rubbed off. The pianist Harold Isaacs remembered overcrowded Acomb Lodge as ‘a very strange ...

The Grey Boneyard of Fifties England

Iain Sinclair, 22 August 1996

A Perfect Execution 
by Tim Binding.
Picador, 344 pp., £15.99, May 1996, 0 330 34564 8
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... prop. It has passed through the levels of Eng Lit from the coal-owner’s estate in Lawrence to David Storey’s Radcliffe and homoerotic fumblings among the guy ropes. There is the same smack of Mosleyite fellow-travelling that Ishiguro exploits in The Remains of the Day. ‘Stand in the snug every Sunday after service, pull on his thumbs and brag about ...

Winklepickers, Tinned Salmon, Hair Cream

Bee Wilson: Jonathan Meades, 14 July 2016

An Encyclopedia of Myself 
by Jonathan Meades.
Fourth Estate, 341 pp., £9.99, February 2015, 978 1 85702 905 5
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... forgets. A second never knows.’ Supposedly, we only learned how to eat well as a nation when Elizabeth David travelled to the Mediterranean and brought back news of olives, apricots and taramasalata. (Mediterranean Food was published in 1950.) But Meades recalls how his own mother’s cooking changed in the late 1950s, and not necessarily for the ...

Too Specific and Too Vague

Bee Wilson: Curry House Curry, 24 March 2022

Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionised Food in America 
by Mayukh Sen.
Norton, 259 pp., £18.99, January, 978 1 324 00451 6
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The Philosophy of Curry 
by Sejal Sukhadwala.
British Library, 106 pp., £10, March, 978 0 7123 5450 9
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... In England, Indian food was thought to be anything sprinkled with curry powder: a substance Elizabeth David described as ‘unlikeable, harshly flavoured, and possessed of an aroma clinging and as all-pervading in its way as that of English boiled cabbage or cauliflower’. ‘To me the word “curry” is as degrading to India’s great cuisine as ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers, 27 July 1989

Jigsaw: An Unsentimental Education 
by Sybille Bedford.
Hamish Hamilton, 328 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 241 12572 3
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... there were few motor-cars, there were few people.’ (Cyril Connolly hadn’t yet got there.) And Elizabeth David herself couldn’t have found fault with the food. Her mother for the time being was calm, a pleasure to be with. ‘So there we sat Chez Schwob, my mother and I, sun-warmed, looking at the sea and tossing boats, drinking a modest apéritif ...

When Men Started Doing It

Steven Shapin: At the Grill Station, 17 August 2006

Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Butcher in Tuscany 
by Bill Buford.
Cape, 318 pp., £17.99, July 2006, 9780224071840
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... Jamie (two), Gordon, Nigella, the clownish American TV chef Emeril Lagasse, Julia Child, Elizabeth David, Irma Rombauer (compiler of the American suburban kitchen bible, The Joy of Cooking), and even Delia. In the US, the cable TV Food Network reaches 85 million households, guaranteeing financial success for its stars’ books, videos and ...

Anti-Slavery Begins at Home

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, 25 May 1995

The First Woman of the Republic: A Cultural Biography of Lydia Maria Child 
by Carolyn Karcher.
Duke, 804 pp., £35.95, March 1995, 0 8223 1485 1
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Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life 
by Joan Hedrick.
Oxford, 507 pp., £25, March 1994, 0 19 506639 1
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... least in her marriage to the very dashing, wonderfully intelligent, but ultimately incompetent, David Child. He, too, struggled to overcome a modest background through intellectual and, in his case, political and financial, achievement. Unlike her, he failed. And for six years in the middle of their fifty-year-long, childless marriage, when her career was ...

Only Sleeping

Anne Barton: Variations on Elizabeth I, 10 July 2003

England’s ElizabethAn Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy 
by Michael Dobson and Nicola J. Watson.
Oxford, 348 pp., £19.99, November 2002, 0 19 818377 1
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... that the sufferer might go on to negotiate adulthood with much success, let alone emerge as Elizabeth I – possibly the most politically adroit, intelligent and successful monarch ever to occupy the English throne. Yet, during a long reign of 44 years, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn contrived to steer a middle course in religion between the ...

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