Without doubt, one of my all-time favourite book covers. I bought my first copy of this edition when I was 13; the cover photo seduced me into believing I could transform my life from Stockport-chips-with-everything into Stockport-effortlessly-stylish-and-tasteful. Of course, as soon as I got the book home I realised I would never be able to find or afford the ingredients required to live the Elizabeth David life in the north west; figs, tarragon, sole, muscat grapes, veal, morello cherries, marsala and lobster are still not exactly commonplace in Stockport. (Not so long ago I went to a greengrocer's and asked if they had any fresh coriander and was told, 'no, love, you need to go to a fresh coriander shop for that'.)
Despite the fact that I have never cooked from this lovely looking book, the cover is now tatty and dog-eared from having moved from kitchen to kitchen over the years. It's my wishful cooking/thinking talisman, a reminder of my powerful youthful belief in something beyond being 13 and living in Stockport. But because I never found a single recipe I could make from what we had locally or at home (there's not much you can do with butterscotch Angel Delight, is there?), I have never really got on with Elizabeth David - she belongs to world I still haven't discovered.
When we were in Aldeburgh recently, I bought a cheap second copy of the book with a much better cover (above) from the second-hand bookshop because I couldn't leave it in the window and because I think I should perhaps frame it. These days, I may cook from more accessible, affordable and realistic books by Nigel Slater and Madhur Jaffrey and Annie Bell, there is still a part of me that believes I shall, one day, attain a fresh fig and cream cheese (p 213) lifestyle.