Those of you familiar with food writing may have already discovered the almost tangible thrill of reading M.F.K. Fisher's work. If you haven't, you're in for a treat. This beautiful 50th anniversary edition is a compilation of her best-known food writing, completed between 1937 and 1954. While today I feel that the entire collection could be considered a food history masterpiece, M.F.K. Fisher dives into the history of foods ancient and modern in Serve It Forth (1937). She writes of the food of the 14th century Crusaders,
She offers a recipe for coffee, borrowed from Frederick the Great:
She even has a recipe for how to cook a wolf.
Yes, you read that correctly.
How To Cook A Wolf, published in 1942, was written to encourage Americans dealing with the leanest year of rationing and food shortages of World War II. She uses the wolf as an apt metaphor for the hardships of wartime. In her preface she writes:
M.F.K. Fisher's luscious prose requires reading with a pencil in hand, so one can underline (practically) every word she writes: it's full of "aha!" moments of profound revelations, and not just about food.
In 1949, she wrote An Alphabet For Gourmets, the first of which is "A is for dining Alone." She continues on with the tantalizing "B is for Bachelor" and so on, through "L is for Literature," "R is for Romantic," and ending up with "Y is for Yak" and "Z is for Zakuski." (Reading M.F.K. Fisher will expand your vocabulary considerably, as well as your palate. No one will be able to beat you at Scrabble...) Sprinkled throughout her alphabet are little recipes, personal vignettes, and sage words of advice, such as this morsel from "S is for Sad":
M.F.K. Fisher's writing style is a juxtaposition of elegance and crudeness; light and darkness; laugh-out-loud humor and grim prophecies of doom. I have never, in my years of reading, come across another writer quite like her. Possibly Shakespeare: I think the two would have gotten along quite well, as she's forever quoting him in her writings. They both possessed a keen wit and an unmatched insight (albeit tempered with compassion, thank heavens) into the human condition.
The Art of Eating is a real treat--don't miss it!