Elizabeth David is a sensuous meal substitute for those who go on holiday to escape cooking, and a delight for jaded cooks who come to life in exotic food markets. The woman who served up flavour and colour to a post-rationing nation does not date. Her railings against the pretentious, the half-hearted and "the grotesque prudishness and archness with which garlic is treated in this country" (Summer Cooking 1955) are salted with timeless instructions to wrap picnic white wine in damp newspaper and never to leave home without a sharp knife and a pepper mill.
My favourite is An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (Penguin) but I'll be with you in the Squeezing of a Lemon, her bitesized Penguin 60s collection, will take your mind off airline food for 60p and the recipe for "Juanita's Tortillas" travels well. Or just read them in bed.
She would have approved of the menu for the bittersweet marriage feast in John Berger's To the Wedding (Bloomsbury), last year's Booker Prize that got away. While Berger's doomed couple sit down to barbecued eels and a whole lamb in an orchard in the Veneto, Goldstein's Dairy Restaurant in Manhattan's Upper West Side dishes up Gefilte Fish Paul Newman. The customers are the ageing Jewish intellectuals of Alan Isler's first novel The Prince of West End Avenue (Jonathan Cape), a world-weary tragicomedy which centres on a farcical production of Hamlet at the Emma Lazarus retirement home.
Cassandra in Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle (re-issued to celebrate the author's centenary by Virago) lives on bread and marge and a vivid imagination with her batty family, who seem doomed to a picturesque upper-class kind of poverty until Darcy and Bingley move in next door in the form of a pair of rich Americans. Consume with your favourite comfort food.
Geraldine Brennan is TES Children's Books Editor.