Monday, January 28, 2008

"An Omelette and A Glass of Wine" Book Review #8

Elizabeth David is one of my favorite food writers. Oh there are many more that I cherish also, such as M.F.K Fisher, Simone Beck, Laura Shapiro and of late, Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain. My list is actually pretty extensive and sometime soon, maybe it would be fun if we all did a post on our favorite food writers. I am always looking for a new good book on food and wine.
If you like the writings of the “old gals” may I suggest “An Omelette and A Glass of Wine” by Elizabeth David. This book was originally published in 1952 and is an enchanting collection of pieces and essays written over the span of 35 years for a variety of publications that she submitted her work. Even though Elizabeth’s home was England, her favorite countries were France and Italy and many of the essays in this book take place there. Take for instance the essay “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine”. Elizabeth takes us to a celebrated restaurant called the Hotel de la Tete d’Or on the Mont-St-Michel just off the coast of Normandy. Here the menu never changed and, of course, one of the items was an omelette. Madame Poulard, proprietress of the hotel, was known for her exquisite lightness and beauty of her omelette which brought lots of tourists flocking to her table. Further on into the essay, Elizabeth explains what a good omelette consists of and then talks about wine with an omelette. Elizabeth states “Although there are those who maintain that wine and egg dishes don’t go together I must say I do regard a glass or two of wine as not, obviously, essential but at least an enormous enhancement of the enjoyment of a well-cooked omelette. In any case if it were true that wine and eggs are bad partners, then a good many dishes, and in particular, such sauces as mayonnaise, Hollandaise and Béarnaise would have to be banished from meals designed round a good bottle, and that would surely be absurd. But we are not in any case considering the great occasion menu but the almost primitive and elemental meal evoked by the words “Let’s just have an omelette and a glass of wine”! In the rest of this essay Elizabeth takes us with her in her travels in the south of France and talks about her simple meals of omelttes. Her descriptions of her surroundings makes you feel like you are right there with her, “On market days when I was living in a rickety old house in a crumbling Provencal hill-top village…” Now close your eyes and you can actually picture her rickety old house in that hill-top village! I really enjoyed her last sentence in this writing on omelettes and wine, “But one of the main points about the enjoyment of food and wine seems to me to lie in having what you want when you want it and in the particular combination you fancy.” How right you are Elizabeth!

So may I suggest, if you are looking for a good read on a cold wintry evening, pour yourself a nice glass of Shiraz or Merlot to get the chill out and kick back and join Elizabeth David in her colorful explorations of food, cooking, wine and very interesting characters.

I know, now you are wondering where my omelette recipe and recommendation of a wine to pair with it happens to be. Well, the two gentlemen that I dine with every evening would not hear of having eggs for dinner and, serving a glass of wine with my omelette for breakfast, well that will have to wait till I am on vacation! Or hey, maybe not…


Wendy said...

This is one of my favourites too! Especially at this time of year. :)

Johanna GGG said...

Thanks for the great post Deb. I agree with you that it is great for food bloggers to talk about their foodie books - I have discovered a few good ones this way.

I actually recently bought Elizabeth David's more recent collection of essays - is there a nutmeg in the house - and I have been wondering if I should chase this earlier collection - you have put my mind at rest! I will be keeping my eye out for it.

One reason for my interest in Elizabeth David is that I watched a bio pic about her the other night. It was disappointing because it just seemed to portay her as selfish, sex-mad and never to be seen without a glass of wine in her hand - seemed to diminsh the importance of her contribution to cookery. But it does explain why she thought wine would go nicely with an omelette and anything else for that matter :-)

Lucy said...

Ashamed to say that I've not read this one. I bought Italian Food in Italy and then promptly forgot about it, but I have read French Provincial Cooking several times, and I adore her 'voice'.

Wonderful review - gonna get thinking about who I would choose as my favourite.

Nora B. said...

"...having what you want when you want it and in the particular combination you fancy..." How very true! How wonderful if that can happen often :-)

Terrific post, Deb. I hope to get back into reading non-academic books soon. Soon, being from April onwards. This thesis is killing me, that's why I took a break to Tasmania before jumping into the research again. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel ;-)

Anonymous said...

I like a nice omelette for dinner with a crusty loaf and glass of wine. I never heard the saying that eggs don't go well with wine.I'll watch for the book. It sounds like a good one :)

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

An interesting read as always Deb. I need to add to my cookbook collection..or do I???...instead of all the magazines. I picked up a copy of Bon Appetit and Gourmet on my way home...I am truly addicted. One of our fellow bloggers "Orangette" was in print!!!!

Anonymous said...

It's a lovely book, isn't it? David writes incredibly well.

An omelette and a glass of wine... that sounds perfect right now!

Thistlemoon said...

Hey Deb, wine goes good with everything! And you my friend am sure that you could find the best bottle to go with everything!

winedeb said...

Hey Wendy, I knew it would be!

Hi Johanna, yes I do think she was quite a character, as you can pick up that tone in some of her writing. But she writes so well! Keeps my interest!

Hey Lucy, French Provincial is next on my list. Cannot wait to read it!

Hi Nora, glad you took the break! Much luck with your research!

Hi Maryann, yep it is a good one!

Hi Valli, I would not pick up the book for recipes. It is just a great read on her travels and cooking. Bon Appetit and Gourmet are two that I get every month. I did see Orangette!

Hey Jen, I hope to try it soon!

Hey Jenn, I agree, it does go well with just about everything!

Katie Zeller said...

Have a small omelet for a first course - then you can enjoy the wine.
Thanks for the recommendation - I may have to go to Alibris for this - or is it still in print? Amazon, here I come!

Shaun said...

Deb ~ I am also a great fan of Elizabeth David. I have a few of her books/collections of essays, including this one that is the subject of your post, "An Omelette and A Glass of Wine." My favorite essay in this collection is entitled Mafalda, Giovanna, Giulia, and it notes the personalities and a few recipes of three Italian women. I also like the essay on Edouard de Pomiane. A great book!

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