‘MFK Fisher among the pots and pans: celebrating her kitchens’, by Joan Reardon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
It was Mary Francis who said ‘…all one needs to cook is a mortar and pestle and the full awareness of all your five senses…’
This book was sent to me by my dear chef friend Cathy, when I became a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers’ Association, hoping I guess, that some of Mary Francis’ talent might rub off on me!
Mary Francis Kennedy Fisher was a celebrated American culinary writer, a culinary legend, with 27 books published, the first in 1937, and many more articles. She died in 1992 at 83 years old, having lived an extraordinarily interesting life, with 3 husbands and 2 daughters; she loved her time living in Dijon, Strasbourg and Provence, surrounded by wonderful French food.
Her writings were a mixture of food, literature, travel and memoir; she wrote quite sensually and erotically about food, quite unintended, but it was how she thought. She valued and cherished food, the time she spent cooking and she relished the pleasure of eating.
This small biographical book, is the story of her culinary life, and focuse on the kitchens in which she cooked. She loved to improvise and she enjoyed inadequate work-spaces; she managed to cook wonderfully simple, delicious food in very challenging circumstances. There were only a few times in her life that she cooked in a kitchen with four walls! Occasionally she had no oven and no refrigerator, sometimes cooking on a single gas burner. She cooked simple, good food with her tiny kitchens requiring the streamlining of her menus. Possibly something we could think of when we invite friends to share our table!
As a consequence of reading this book, I went to my library to check which books of hers I own. I do have a few; I chose to re-read The Cooking of Provincial France, New York: Time-Life Books, 1968. This book was a commissioned work on the various provinces of France and their food specialties as well as a look at how a contemporary French family balanced city with country life. It was written in concert with Michael Field and Julia Child.
I am now inspired to read some more of these classics, which include:
- Serve It Forth (Harper 1937) ISBN 0-86547-369-2
- Touch and Go (Harper and Brothers 1939) (with Dillwyn Parrish under the psudonym Victoria Berne)
- Consider the Oyster (Duell, Sloan and Pierce 1941) ISBN 0-86547-335-8
- How to Cook a Wolf (Duell, Sloan and Pierce 1942) ISBN 0-86547-336-6
- The Gastronomical Me (Duell, Sloan and Pierce 1943) ISBN 0-86547-392-7
- Here Let Us Feast, A Book of Banquets (Viking 1946) ISBN 0-86547-206-8
- Not Now but Now (Viking 1947) ISBN 0-86547-072-3
- An Alphabet for Gourmets (Viking 1949) ISBN 0-86547-391-9
- The Physiology of Taste [translator] (Limited Editions Club 1949) ISBN 978-1-58243-103-1
- The Art of Eating (MacMillan 1954) ISBN 0-394-71399-0
- A Cordiall Water: A Garland of Odd & Old Receipts to Assuage the Ills of Man or Beast (Little Brown 1961) ISBN 0-86547-036-7
- The Story of Wine in California (University of California Press 1962) OCLC 560806180 LCCN 62-18711
- Map of Another Town: A Memoir of Provence (Little Brown 1964) OCLC 1597658 LCCN 64-10958
- The Cooking of Provincial France (Time-Life Books 1968) [reprinted in 1969 as The Cooking of Provincial France] ISBN
- With Bold Knife and Fork (Putnam 1969) ISBN 0-399-50397-8
- Among Friends (Knopf 1971) ISBN 0-86547-116-9
- A Considerable Town (Knopf 1978) ISBN 0-394-42711-4
- Not a Station but a Place (Synergistic Press 1979) ISBN 0-912184-02-7
- As They Were (Knopf 1982) ISBN 0-394-71348-6
- Sister Age (Vintage 1983) ISBN 0-394-72385-6.
- Spirits of the Valley (Targ Editions 1985)
- Fine Preserving: M.F.K. Fisher’s Annotated Edition of Catherine Plagemann’s Cookbook (Aris Books 1986) ISBN 0-671-63065-2
- Dubious Honors (North Point Press 1988) ISBN 0-86547-318-8
- The Boss Dog: A Story of Provence (Yolla Bolly Press 1990) ISBN 0-86547-465-6
- Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon (Prentice Hall 1991) ISBN 0-13-929548-8
- To Begin Again: Stories and Memoirs 1908-1929 (Pantheon 1992) ISBN 0-679-41576-9
- Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me: Journals and Stories 1933-1941 (Pantheon 1993) ISBN 0-679-75825-9
- Last House: Reflections, Dreams and Observations 1943-1991 (Pantheon 1995) ISBN 0-679-77411-4
- Aphorisms of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin from His Work, The Physiology of Taste (1998)
- A Life in Letters (Counterpoint 1998) ISBN 1-887178-46-5
- From the Journals of M.F.K. Fisher (Pantheon 1999) ISBN 0-375-70807-3
- Two Kitchens in Provence (Yolla Bolly Press 1999)
- Home Cooking: An Excerpt from a Letter to Eleanor Friede, December, 1970 (Weatherford Press 2000)