What one wants is the taste of the fresh eggs and the fresh butter and, visually, a soft bright golden roll plump and spilling out a little at the edges. It should not be a busy, important urban dish but something gentle and pastoral, with the clean scent of the dairy, the kitchen garden, the basket of early morning mushrooms or the sharp tang of freshly picked herbs, sorrel, chives, tarragon. (“An Omelette and a Glass of Wine”, 1984).
Anthony Barnes wrote in The Independent of 11.12.05:
“She was Britain’s greatest cookery writer of the post-war era. Elizabeth David, whose bestselling classics included Mediterranean Food and French Provincial Cooking, helped to influence the tastes of the nation for decades.
Yet away from the confines of the kitchen, Elizabeth David was a beauty whose sexual liberation was years ahead of her time and who used her smouldering allure to have flings with a string of men.
Now her racy life has been dramatised in a new BBC film, to be screened next month, which will expose the sensuality that few of her readers and followers knew existed…
Mrs David’s writing and enthusiasm for extending the range of the British palate through her bestselling books, which also included Summer Cooking and An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, influenced a range of well-known foodies such as Sir Terence Conran and the River Café gurus Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.
The Sorbonne-educated writer, who died in 1992 at the age of 78, came from a privileged society background, living in a Sussex manor house with her Tory MP father Rupert Gwynne. But to her parents’ horror she became an actress in London, and their disapproval was compounded when she left Britain with a married lover in 1939.
It was this trip, however, that pricked her interest in Mediterranean food, and on her return to London shortly after the end of the Second World War she began to write articles about cooking for a British public still steeped in a diet of Spam and powdered egg. Within a few years she was offered her first book deal, for which she spent many months in Italy researching her recipes. She went on to become a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in recognition of her skills as a writer.
In the film, Elizabeth David – My Life in Recipes, which will be screened on BBC2, Mrs David is played by Catherine McCormack, who starred in Braveheart, while Peter Higgins – her most long-standing lover – is portrayed by Greg Wise. Her misery at splitting from Higgins contributed to her ill-health, which ironically affected two of the key elements in her life – her sense of taste and her libido.
Colette Flight, the film’s producer, said: “She was a very independent woman and had a great appetite for life. Obviously we reference her love affairs. She was a revolutionary woman and her writing was fantastic.”