I was sooooooo excited the other day because I found a very exciting thing. While perusing the little shelves of my local charity book shop – The Cotswold Care Hospice Book Shop in Dursley, Gloucestershire, in case you wanted to know – I came across a very old and battered book in the cookery section. It turned out to be an original 1952 copy of Elizabeth David’s French Country Cooking. And the best part is it was just £1.50! Such a bargain for such a classic.
I leafed through the delicate pages of this food bible with utter glee. It seems unbelievable that it was written just after the war had finished and rationing had only just come to an end. The recipes and writing is so up to date and the advice still prevalent for today. I have given you an excerpt here in case you are not lucky enough to have a copy of the book. I particularly like this part:
“Good cooking is honest, sincere and simple, and by this I do not mean to imply that you will find in this, or indeed any other book, the secret of turning out first-class food in a few minutes without trouble. Good food is always a trouble and it’s preparation should be regarded as a labour of love, and this book is intended for those who actually and positively enjoy the labour involved in entertaining their friends and providing their families with first-class food. Even more than long hours in the kitchen, fine meals require ingenious organisation and experience which is a pleasure to acquire.”
I really think Elizabeth is on to something here. I am all for the speedy meal after work but I think so much emphasis is put on quick meals that we have forgotten that cooking is something to be enjoyed, it is a skill to acquire over time, it is something to throw yourself into. All the celebrity chefs try to construct new meal ideas for those hard-pushed for time. “You can cook this up in minutes”, they say and “No need for a take-away this meal can be thrown together in less than the time it will take you to order and pick it up”. But what about cooking for cooking’s sake?
Even if you get in from work at 7pm, there is still time to think about what to create for dinner, to calmly chop and slice, then gently simmer and stir the dish until it is complete. Then sit down – with you partner or with the family – and enjoy the meal. Sometimes it is just slosh, stir and plonk it on the plate, but other times we should remember that making a meal is something to take pride in. I know lots people who think that taking time and pride in your cooking is a waste of time, but how can something as important as feeding yourself be a waste of time? The craft of cooking is as old as time and I just hope that generations down the line we haven’t forgotten it. As long as Elizabeth David’s books are around we won’t.