Book - Lunch With Elizabeth David




Roger Williams - 2000
Abacus
ISBN: 0349112207
Lunch With Elizabeth David
£2.47 + p&p.

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I had read a few of her cook books, and decided to read a biography of Elizabeth David's life (WRITING AT THE KITCHEN TABLE by Artemis Cooper), before I read LUNCH WITH ELIZABETH DAVID. I'm glad I did. Roger Williams probably provides the reader with enough information to make the necessary connections to David's life, but I know my prior reading enhanced my experience. I think I would have profited a bit more if I had read some of Norman Douglas' books before reading LUNCH-at the least "Old Calabria." Fortunately, I had read other authors who'd written about Italy in the "old days" before WWII.

Williams' writing is reminiscent of Nabokov, Durrell-and Elizabeth David. I think his book is very literary in tone and substance, and as is often the case with "classical" works, some of the content is distasteful, although this interpretation is subjective on my part, and not perhaps how Williams sees it. Norman Douglas more frequently than not went about with young boys in tow, and was described by more than one court as a pedophile. I find pedophilia disgusting, but I'm glad I did not follow my first impulse which was to throw the book in the trash bin because it contains more than allusions to this topic.

The main focus of the book is not Douglas, as the book jacket suggests, but the effect he had on other lives. The protagonist in the first section of the book, which takes place mostly before WWI and includes Douglas as a character, is a 12-year old boy from the East End of London named Eric. The main character in the second part of the book, which takes place in 1990s England, is a woman named Cherry whose mother served as maid for Elizabeth David for a short while during WWII. Cherry marries John, Eric's grandson, and a London fish shop owner. Cherry sometimes helps John deliver fish, and eventually develops her own catering business. Food associations lead Cherry to discover Elizabeth David and Norman Douglas. Her discoveries have a profound effect on her life.

LUNCH WITH ELIZABETH DAVID is a hauting book about the long-lasting effects of other people's lives.