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Posted May 28, 2010
Elegant, Simple Recipes from Another Era
Imagine the Mediterranean coast in summer-the smell of wild basil and lavender in the warm air, the shiver of a breeze through high poplar leaves, the rough turquoise and sandy vistas beyond-and now imagine on a patio or out in the garden a table set for family and friends, a table waiting under red lanterns that will gleam later on, long into the night.
What's on the table?
There's an array of salads-like lentil salad with fresh herbs and chopped hard-boiled eggs, or almond or oranges tossed with crisp lettuce and a dressing made with melted butter and lemon juice, or Salad Lorraine with peppery greens and bacon. Soup is ladled out-cold cucumber soup or clear beetroot consumme or a warming, buttery broth with prawns and green peas. Served too is a pot of crab mousse and a crock of pork, ham, and veal terrine. For sweets there are, set out with apricot ice cream, peaches in wine and raspberry shortbread.
The book Summer Cooking is more, though, than a compilation of simple and special recipes for sunny gatherings. It's a holiday back in time. David's language is sparse, wise, knowledgeable, and direct, and the era of her writing is from the golden age of European travel, the mid-1950s. Something from that warm, leisurely, eloquent era is crystallized in this book-perhaps it's the ingredients, which show a familiarity with 'Old World' cooking with its use of all meats and lack of timidity when it comes to butter and cream. Perhaps it's the titles of the recipes, like the hors d'oevres of 'Avocado Pears' (avocado with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon) and the desserts 'Geranium Cream' and 'Blackberry Water Ice.' Or maybe too it's the inherent view of family and time-the luxury of long summer days-that encapsulates the world this cookbook was written from and for.
Though a few recipes might be dated, the sheer pleasure of this final quality-this image of the waiting table with people gathering around-is what the book really provides. It's a treasure to read; and if reading turns to cooking, a joyous treasure it becomes indeed.
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