Of Pageants and Picnics
Part of the Pocket Penguin Series, the 57 pages in this book are culled from a number of different volumes by Elizabeth David.
She brings colour and life to whatever she describes. Most of the content of this book is concerned with the food and markets of France, but the following is taken from a short excursion to the country markets of Italy:
Here the cabbages are cobalt blue, the beetroots deep rose, the lettuces clear pure green, sharp as glass. Bunches of gaudy gold marrow-flowers show off the elegance of pink and white marbled bean pods, primrose potatoes, green plums, green peas. The colours of the peaches, cherries and apricots, packed in boxes lined with sugar-bag blue paper matching the blue canvas trousers worn by the men unloading the gondolas, are reflected in the rose-red mullet and the orange vongole and cannestrelle which have been prised out of their shells and heaped into baskets. In other markets on other shores, the unfamiliar fishes may be livid, mysterious, repellent, fascinating, and bright with splendid colour; only in Venice do they look good enough to eat. In Venice even ordinary sole and ugly great skate are striped with delicate lilac lights, the sardines shine like newly-minted silver coins, pink Venetian scampi are fat and fresh, infinitely enticing in the early dawn.
The section on Picnics is good to have, though perhaps Elizabeth David’s idea of a picnic was a little more flamboyant than those of my own dear mother. I seem to remember quite a lot of hard-boiled egg and not quite as much smoked trout.
Other sections include Eating Out in Provincial France, Summer Holidays, and Improvised Cooking for Holidays and Week-ends. She’s very good with mushrooms.