M.F.K. Fisher's writings loom large in the American literary landscape, and deservedly so.
Of the books written by M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992) that I have so far read, my favorite is How to Cook a Wolf, which, I believe, illustrates well the qualities that make her writing enchanting. After spending three years in France with her husband Al, Mary Frances came back to the United States in 1932. Five years later, she published her first book, Serve it Forth. In 1941 came Consider the Oyster, followed, in 1942, by How to Cook a Wolf, described by James Beard as “her brilliant approach to wartime economies for the table.”
Wartime brings special challenges to anybody trying to eat “with both grace and gusto.” Fisher refuses to allow all pleasures to disappear from the wartime table and provides advice and recipes that creatively make the best of what can be obtained and prepared at a time of tight budget and scarcity. Food provides the springboard for reflections on topics ranging from the balanced diet to the choice of a drinking partner.
Each chapter of How to Cook a Wolf presents Fisher’s thoughts on a topic: “How to Boil Water,” “How Not to Boil an Egg,” etc. The recipes (inserted in the text) are interesting, though the main pleasure of reading the book is to listen to Fisher philosophize, muse, get passionate, gently satirize (herself first), and tell stories, where she describes people and events of her life.
Nine years after the publication of How to Cook a Wolf, Ms. Fisher went back to the book and annotated it. Her notes, printed enclosed in square brackets in the North Point Press edition, sound like theatrical asides where the author reflects on her earlier ideas and assertions. Sometimes she stands by her words, sometimes she amends her original words, since she thinks she has learned a thing or two in the intervening time, and sometimes she declares that she has changed her mind.
I hope you'll enjoy Fisher's writing, wit, world view, and approach to cooking in challenging times.
The deadline for publishing your post inspired by How to Cook a Wolf is Monday, July 29th
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Buon divertimento (have fun)!