What Elizabeth David told us Aussies…

14 Sep

In 1953, the great Elizabeth David – she who introduced the wonders of Italian food to the heavily fish and chip-dependent Brits  –  had some advice for Australians.

In a fabulously named article  – “A new ‘Mrs Beeton,’ but she likes garlic” – David sings the praises of snails smothered in butter made with, well, garlic,  talks about the upcoming publication of her book Italian Food and shares some Australia-specific thoughts with the Courier-Mail correspondent, who, diligently, went looking for the local angle, no doubt to please his editor back in Brisbane. Anyway, here’s what she had to say about us:

  1.  She is flattered by the volume of fan mail from Australians but is “stumped” by the questions that come with it, often about substitutions for different ingredients. I can imagine those  letters …“Dear Mrs David, Can I substitute witchetty grubs for snails…”
  2. “She thinks Australians are on the right track in adopting minestrone from Italian migrants as almost an Australian national dish.” News to me that we almost did this, and had I been the Courier-Mail correspondent I would’ve asked where she got her national dish information from. A Gallup poll perhaps? Roy Morgan?
  3. “Mrs. David hopes the Australian housewife is using plenty of wine in her cooking. In a major wine producing country it would be a sin to exclude it from the kitchen, she says.” We might have been a wine producing country but in 1953 we were still serious wowsers, with 6 o’clock closing enforced in most pubs around the country and wine drinkers looked on with suspicion.
  4. “She says the French learned cooking from the Italians and that everybody else should do likewise.” And that, dear readers, is something I can’t argue with at all…


  • “A new “Mrs Beeton,” but she likes garlic,” The Courier-Mail,  26 October 1953, 8.

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