Elizabeth David, CBE (born Elizabeth Gwynne, 26 December 1913 – 22 May 1992) was a British cookery writer. In the mid-20th century she strongly influenced the revitalisation of home cookery in her native country and beyond with articles and books about European cuisines and traditional British dishes.
Born to an upper-class family, David rebelled against social norms of the day. In the 1930s she studied art in Paris, became an actress, and ran off with a married man with whom she sailed in a small boat to Italy, where their boat was confiscated. They reached Greece, where they were nearly trapped by the German invasion in 1941, but escaped to Egypt, where they parted. She then worked for the British government, running a library in Cairo. While there she married, but she and her husband separated soon after and subsequently divorced.
In 1946 David returned to England, where food rationing imposed during the Second World War remained in force. Dismayed by the contrast between the bad food served in Britain and the simple, excellent food to which she had become accustomed in France, Greece and Egypt, she began to write magazine articles about Mediterranean cooking. They attracted favourable attention, and in 1950, at the age of 36, she published A Book of Mediterranean Food. Her recipes called for ingredients such as aubergines, basil, figs, garlic, olive oil and saffron, which at the time were scarcely available in Britain. Books on French, Italian and, later, English cuisine followed. By the 1960s David was a major influence on British cooking. She was deeply hostile to anything second-rate, and to over-elaborate cooking and bogus substitutes for classic dishes and ingredients. In 1965 she opened a shop selling kitchen equipment, which continued to trade under her name after she left it in 1973.
David's reputation rests on her articles and her books, which have been continually reprinted. Between 1950 and 1984 she published eight books; after her death her literary executor completed a further four that she had planned and worked on. David's influence on British cooking extended to professional as well as domestic cooks, and chefs and restaurateurs of later generations such as Terence Conran, Simon Hopkinson, Prue Leith, Jamie Oliver, Tom Parker Bowles and Rick Stein have acknowledged her importance to them. In the US, cooks and writers including Julia Child, Richard Olney and Alice Waters have written of her influence.