Elizabeth David Tribute Dinner

by Jan

On the program of the Sydney International Food Festival in 2010 was a tribute food writers’ dinner held at Bird Cow Fish on Tuesday 19 October. The SIFF program had some fairly pricey events so we decided to push the boat out for this one.

It’s clear that chef Alex Herbert is a fan of Elizabeth David and her culinary heritage. I also have been enthusiastic follower of this seminal food writer. I have a battered copy of “French Provincial Cooking”, the recipes of which I cooked for my willing guinea pig flatmates. For example, oxtail with grapes, and cassoulet – this one is an opus magnum taking a whole day to prepare.

When we decided to book for this special tribute dinner, I decided to read the biography of Elizabeth David written by Lisa Chaney. My hunch is that, although a culinary inspiration, she would not be the easiest person to get along with; I don’t imagine her to be a jolly person like “The Two Fat Ladies”. She certainly had a classy background, and was brought up with household staff including cooks.

So her venture into the world of food was started from scratch; she had to learn how to boil water. When she was living in various Mediterranean countries she often had a cook. She would shop at local markets, observe how the food was prepared and cook it herself, then write it up.

People like Alice Waters are the natural inheritors of this cuisine bourgeoise. Also Stephanie Alexander with her Kitchen Garden Program, as well as the Slow Food and organic movements.

Examples of David’s food are in the menu of Alex Herbert’s tribute dinner:

  • Chicken Liver Crostini
  • Moules Marinieres with grilled olive bread and rouille
  • Grillade au Fenouil (grilled snapper on grilled fennel) and Pommes Anna
  • A Provencal salad (with celery, watercress, orange, parsley)
  • Lemon Souffle with strawberries and vanilla ice cream
  • Yarra Valley Black Savourine goats cheese, panforte, lavosh and fruitions
  • Coffee with Budgi Werri pruces in chocolate

Each course was matched perfectly with wine.

There were speakers between courses, talking about David’s books and writing.

The whole evening was stunningly good.