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Blue plaque honouring Elizabeth David to be unveiled today

18 May 2016 by
Blue plaque honouring Elizabeth David to be unveiled today

A blue plaque honouring cookery writer Elizabeth David is set to be unveiled in London later today.

David, who was credited with introducing post-war England to Mediterranean food, will become the first cookery writer to be commemorated under the English Heritage scheme, which was established in 1866, when the plaque is unveiled at her former Chelsea home.

She lived at 24 Halsey Street for 45 years, from 1947 until her death in 1992, writing, cooking and entertaining.

Often cited as the single most influential English food writer of the 20th century, David was the author of works including A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950), Italian Food (1954) and French Provincial Cooking (1960) and is credited with establishing olive oil and garlic as staples in kitchen cupboards across the country. Her books sold over a million copies and remain in print today.

Rosemary Hill, a member of the English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel, said: "Elizabeth David was taken seriously in a way that no English food writer had been before. She turned the traditional image of Mrs Beeton into a much more glamorous, cosmopolitan idea of what it meant to cook."

Born Elizabeth Gwynne on 26 December 1913, David spent many years living abroad, from Paris, where she studied art, history, literature and architecture to Munich, Egypt, Malta and the Levant. In 1939, David and her lover of several years, Charles Gibson Cowan, set sail for Greece, in a voyage that lay the foundations for her career as a writer.

Hostilities in the Mediterranean at the start of the Second World War resulted in a long journey and as the couple made their way south, David took immense pleasure in exploring the food markets and restaurants of France. Marooned for a while in Antibes on the Côte d'Azur, she befriended the writer and traveller Norman Douglas, who encouraged her to appreciate the culture and history of food and when she finally arrived in Greece, she delighted in experimenting with the local produce.

In 1941, the German invasion of Greece forced David to flee to Egypt. She spent the rest of the war in Alexandria and Cairo where she was part of the anglo-bohemian literary world of wartime Egypt with friends such as Lawrence Durrell and Robin Fedden. By this time she had split from Cowan and in August 1944 she married Lieutenant-Colonel Ivor Anthony David, then an officer in the Indian Army.

The Davids returned to England after the war when they bought number 24 Halsey Street in Chelsea. This is where Elizabeth lived and worked for the rest of her life, long after the end of her marriage.

She initially started writing articles on cookery for Harper's Bazaar and these articles were included in her first volume, A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950).

She was awarded an OBE in 1976 and a CBE in 1986. In 2012 she was one of 60 public figures celebrated in the Radio 4 series New Elizabethans and in 2013 she was among the 10 'Great Britons' whose centenaries were celebrated in an issue of postage stamps.

Book review: Elizabeth David On Vegetables >>
Book review - At Elizabeth David's Table >>
Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen - Elizabeth David >>

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