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France, and subsequent arrest as well as the loss
of the yacht and their possessions in Italy, they
arrived in Athens in July 1940. They settled on
the island of Syros where, according to Cooper
(1999, p. 79), 'she learnt how to rely on the
ancient, basic foods of the Mediterranean'. What
Cooper describes as a 'primitive Mediterranean
idyll' ended when the Germans occupied Greece
in April 1941, and the couple, once more refu-
gees, fl ed to Egypt. Her relationship with Charles
at an end, Elizabeth spent the remainder of the
war in Egypt, working fi rst in Alexandria and
then in the Ministry of Information in Cairo.
There she came to know the writers Robin
Fedden and Lawrence Durrell, who with the
poet Bernard Spencer edited the quarterly Pe r-
sonal Landscape . Bolton (1997, p. xii) describes
this as 'a record of group experience, of responses
to, among other things, world war, exile, and the
Levantine landscape, culture and art.' The sense
of exile they felt was exile from Greece, their per-
ceived centre of western culture, not England.
Elizabeth's other biographer Lisa Chaney (1998,
pp. 180-181) suggests that
determinant of any culture is after all - the spirit
of place. Just as one particular vineyard will
always give you a special wine with discernible
characteristics so a Spain, an Italy, a Greece will
always give you the same type of culture - will
express itself through the human being just as it
does through its wild fl owers.
(Durrell, 1969, p. 156)
For David, it would be the food of a landscape
that above all expressed the spirit of place. In
her work, the life of the country was articulated
by its food and by its people's encounters with
that food, and was signifi ed not just by tastes
and smells, but by the sight of ingredients and
dishes, by provenance, and by the memories of
eating, of shared meals.
Food and Celebrity Serendipity:
Rick Stein's French Odyssey
Rick Stein's French Odyssey was shown on
BBC2 in 2005. It charted a serendipitous barge
journey through the canals of South West France
in search of traditional recipes and a culinary
way of life, which refl ected the terroir and the
unchanging spirit of place of a rural, implicitly
peasant, landscape. As traveller's tales on televi-
sion go, however, this one appeared to be singu-
larly lacking in travail. Rick Stein, a chef in later
middle age with a string of television series in
search and celebration of regional produce 7 is
seen lounging on a sofa in the barge's cabin. 'I
just love the movement,' he muses. 'Isn't it nice
when you're just going along only at four miles
an hour. Because life suddenly assumes a peace-
fulness, and that's what barge life's like.' Under-
pinning Stein's travels in search of a more
authentic way of life is the ambivalence implicit
towards his chosen mode of transport, the 100-
year-old steel barge Rosa and then, for the sec-
ond leg of the voyage, her younger sister Anjodi .
The pair's stately pace and girth appear to cause
the fi lm crew much unspecifi ed grief, perhaps
since they cannot easily be reversed along the
canal for re-takes. Stein muses on the problems
of seeing beyond the unending screen of tow-
path trees that lines the canal 8 and begins to
Elizabeth might not have benefi ted from the
rigorous classical education of Spencer or
Fedden, but like Durrell she identifi ed entirely
with their sense of exile and was party to many
late-night conversations emanating from the
same principles inspiring Personal Landscapes .
For these writers, Bolton argues, Egypt was a
country bleached of colour by the sun.
This white and colourless landscape became
[…] a kind of emblem of blankness, erasure
and emptiness - the very antithesis of the
colourful and irregular contours found in the
topography of Greece.
(Bolton, 1997, p. 61)
At the same time, Durrell was formulating his
belief that characters were functions of land-
scape, a belief that would fi nd its fullest expres-
sion in the four novels of The Alexandria
Quartet , but also one that would inform much
of his travel writing.
[A]s you get to know Europe slowly, tasting the
wine, cheeses and characters of the different
countries you begin to realize that the important
7 See Randall (1999) for a detailed analysis of Rick Stein's Taste of the Sea (BBC2 1996).
8 Rick Stein's French Odyssey , Episode 2 (August 2005).
 
 
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