Kitchenware devoured at auction: Steve Boggan finds high prices being paid for relics of Elizabeth David, who revolutionised British cooking

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The Independent Online
PERHAPS the man who paid pounds 400 for five wooden spoons best summed it up: 'I'm hoping some of the magic will rub off,' he said.

The delighted collector was talking about the magic of Elizabeth David, the cookery writer, whose kitchenware went under the hammer yesterday and, to the astonishment of auctioneers, fetched three times the amount expected.

There was the bidder who paid pounds 240 for a copper pan; another who splashed out pounds 320 on a colander; the cook who spent pounds 200 on a glass sugar-crusher; and the man who bought a rolling pin for pounds 280. They all wanted a little of the magic that made Ms David one of the most important cookery writers of the century, whose Book of Mediterranean Food and French Provincial Cooking brought a ray of sunshine into the dour austerity of the 1950s.

After her death in 1992, her four nephews decided they could not hold on to her kitchenware. It was decided that Phillips of Bayswater would handle the sale, but nothing prepared auctioneers for the interest generated by the prospect of owning the utensils that revolutionised British cookery.

'We usually get a couple of hundred people at a sale, but more than 1,000 turned up,' Sean McIlroy, Phillips' manager, said. 'We expected to realise about pounds 15,000, maybe pounds 20,000, but we got pounds 49,000. A cook's kitchen is a very personal thing, and in this case everyone wanted a little piece of it.'

Prue Leith, another of Britain's finest cooks, landed Ms David's heavy pine kitchen table for pounds 1,100 and could not believe her luck. 'I'm absolutely thrilled,' she said. 'To think that this is the table that she cooked at, ate at and wrote her books at for 50 years. I think she would have preferred a fellow cook to get it, rather than a dealer. I'm going to use it just the way she did in my own kitchen. I'll write at it too, but I doubt the quality will be as good.'

Ms David's nephews, Christopher, Rupert, Johnnie and Stephen Grey, were said to be thrilled with the sale. According to the auction house, they held just one thing back: a Le Creuset omelette pan with which they could not bear to part. Each nephew keeps it for three months at a time before popping it in the post between their homes in England, Australia, France and America.