Pioneering Food Writer
M. F. K. Fisher was an illustrious American food writer, born on July 3, 1908. Her initials stand for Mary Frances Kennedy, though she is best known by her pen name. Fisher's literary contributions revolutionized the way people approached food writing. Her unique style combined exquisite descriptions of gastronomic delights with profound reflections on life, love, and the human experience.
Fisher's literary journey began with her book "Serve It Forth" (1937), which was followed by a series of equally captivating works such as "Consider the Oyster" (1941) and "How to Cook a Wolf" (1942). Her writing transcended the boundaries of culinary literature, delving into themes of culture, history, and personal reflection. Fisher's ability to intertwine food with philosophical musings earned her a special place in the literary world.
Throughout her prolific career, M. F. K. Fisher authored more than 30 books, leaving an indelible mark on the world of gastronomy and literature. Her legacy continues to inspire food writers, chefs, and readers alike, reminding us that food is not merely sustenance, but a gateway to understanding the complex tapestry of human existence.
It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.
since we must eat to live, we might as well do it with both grace and gusto.
Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
No yoga exercise, no meditation in a chapel filled with music will rid you of your blues better than the humble task of making your own bread.
The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight
I am more modest now, but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.
If time, so fleeting, must like humans die, let it be filled with good food and good talk, and then embalmed in the perfumes of conviviality.
Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches, or June and moon, or good people and noble ventures.
Sharing our meals should be a joyful and a trustful act, rather than the cursory fulfillment of our social obligations.
A complete lack of caution is perhaps one of the true signs of a real gourmet.
Dining partners, regardless of gender, social standing, or the years they've lived, should be chosen for their ability to eat - and drink! - with the right mixture of abandon and restraint. They should enjoy food, and look upon its preparation and its degustation as one of the human arts.
Salad is roughage and a French idea.
Too few of us, perhaps, feel that breaking of bread, the sharing of salt, the common dipping into one bowl, mean more than satisfaction of a need. We make such primal things as casual as tunes heard over a radio, forgetting the mystery and strength in both.
I live with carpe diem engraved on my heart.
Cooks must feed their egos as well as their customers.
One martini is just right. Two martinis are too many. Three martinis are never enough.
When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and it is all one.
A writing cook and a cooking writer must be bold at the desk as well as the stove.
gastronomy is and always has been connected with its sister art of love.
Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat.
I believe that one of the most dignified ways we are capable of, to assert and then reassert our dignity in the face of poverty and war's fears and pains, is to nourish ourselves with all possible skill, delicacy, and ever-increasing enjoyment.
All men are hungry. They always have been. They must eat, and when they deny themselves the pleasures of carrying out that need, they are cutting off part of their possible fullness, their natural realization of life, whether they are rich or poor.
A well-made Martini or Gibson, correctly chilled and nicely served, has been more often my true friend than any two-legged creature.
Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.
I think that when two people are able to weave that kind of invisible thread of understanding and sympathy between each other, that delicate web, they should not risk tearing it. It is too rare, and it lasts too short a time at best.
When we exist without thought or thanksgiving we are not men, but beasts.
Digestion is one of the most delicately balanced of all human and perhaps angelic functions.
I notice that as I get rid of the protective covering of the middle years, I am more openly amused and incautious and less careful socially, and that all this makes for increasingly pleasant contacts with the world.
When shall we live if not now?
It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it
[Bachelors'] approach to gastronomy is basically sexual, since few of them under seventy-nine will bother to produce a good meal unless it is for a pretty woman.
France eats more conciously, more intelligently, than any other nation.
Having bowed to the inevitability of the dictum that we must eat to live, we should ignore it and live to eat.
Cheese has always been a food that both sophisticated and simple humans love.
Central heating, French rubber goods and cookbooks are three amazing proofs of man's ingenuity in transforming necessity into art, and, of these, cookbooks are perhaps most lastingly delightful.
There is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.
Write one good clean sentence and put a period at the end of it. Then write another one.
...for me there is too little of life to spend most of it forcing myself into detachment from it.
The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight... [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.
It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.
...I prefer not to have among my guests two people or more, of any sex, who are in the first wild tremours of love. It is better to invite them after their new passion has settled, has solidified into a quieter reciprocity of emotions. (It is also a waste of good food, to serve it to new lovers.)
It is puzzling to me that otherwise sensitive people develop a real docility about the obvious necessity of eating, at least once a day, in order to stay alive. Often they lose their primal enjoyment of flavors and odors and textures to the point of complete unawareness. And if ever they question this progressive numbing-off, they shrug helplessly in the face of mediocrity everywhere. Bit by bit, hour by hour, they say, we are being forced to accept the not-so-good as the best, since there is little that is even good to compare it with.
It is all a question of weeding out what you yourself like best to do, so that you can live most agreeably in a world full of an increasing number of disagreeable surprises.
In general, I think, human beings are happiest at table when they are very young, very much in love or very alone.
Hunger is more than a problem of belly and guts, and ... the satisfying of it can and must and does nourish the spirit as well as the body.
There are may of us who cannot but feel dismal about the future of various cultures. Often it is hard not to agree that we are becoming culinary nitwits, dependent upon fast foods and mass kitchens and megavitamins for our basically rotten nourishment.
In spite of all the talk and study about our next years, all the silent ponderings about what lies within them...it seems plain to us that many things are wrong in the present ones that can be, must be, changed. Our texture of belief has great holes in it. Our pattern lacks pieces.
I can no more think of my own life without thinking of wine and wines and where they grew for me and why I drank them when I did and why I picked the grapes and where I opened the oldest procurable bottles, and all that, than I can remember living before I breathed.
... I think we grieve forever, but that goes for love too, fortunately for us all.
It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed himself to bursting point on anything from quail financiere to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly.
It was there [Dijon], I now understand, that I started to grow up, to study, to make love, to eat and drink, to be me and not what I was expected to be. It was there that I learned it is blessed to receive, as well as that every human being, no matter how base, is worthy of my respect and even my envy because he knows something that I may never be old or wise or kind or tender enough to know.
At its best, [Japanese cooking] is inextricably meshed with aesthetics, with religion, with tradition and history. It is evocative of seasonal changes, or of one's childhood, or of a storm at sea.
Good wine, well drunk, can lend majesty to the human spirit.
There is a communication of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk. And that is my answer when people ask me: Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love.
Life is hard, we say. An oyster's life is worse. She lives motionless, soundless, her own cold ugly shape her only dissipation.
I sat in the gradually chilling room, thinking of my whole past the way a drowning man is supposed to, and it seemed part of the present, part of the gray cold and the beggar woman without a face and the moulting birds frozen to their own filth in the Orangerie. I know now I was in the throes of some small glandular crisis, a sublimated bilious attack, a flick from the whip of melancholia, but then it was terrifying...nameless...
Probably the most satisfying soup in the world for people who are hungry, as well as for those who are tired or worried or cross or in debt or in a moderate amount of pain or in love or in robust health or in any kind of business huggermuggery, is minestrone.
People ask me: "Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way the others do?" . . . The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry.
For me, a plain baked potato is the most delicious one....It is soothing and enough.
You may feel that you have eaten too much...But this pastry is like feathers - it is like snow. It is in fact good for you, a digestive!
Almost any normal oyster never knows from one year to the next whether he is he or she, and may start at any moment, after the first year, to lay eggs where before he spent his sexual energies in being exceptionally masculine.
I wrote like a junkie. I had to have my daily fix.
On the other hand, a flaccid, moping, debauched mollusc, tired from too much love and loose-nerved from general world conditions, can be a shameful thing served raw upon the shell.
An oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life.
There are many people like me who believe firmly, if somewhat incoherently, that pockets on this planet are filled with what humans have left behind them, both good and evil, and that any such spiritual accumulation can stay there forever, past definition of such a stern word.
For anyone addicted to reading commonplace books . . . finding a good new one is much like enduring a familiar recurrence of malaria, with fever, fits of shaking, strange dreams . . . .
The oyster leads a dreadful but exciting life. Indeed, his chance to live at all is slim, and if he should survive the arrows of his own outrageous fortune and in the two weeks of his carefree youth find a clean smooth place to fix on, the years afterwards are full of stress, passion, and danger.
I wrote from the time I was four. It was my way of screaming and yelling, the primal scream. I wrote like a junkie, I had to have my daily fix.
I cannot count the good people I know who to my mind would be even better if they bent their spirits to the study of their own hungers.
This is not that, and that is certainly not this, and at the same time an oyster stew is not stewed, and although they are made of the same things and even cooked almost the same way, an oyster soup should never be called a stew, nor stew soup.
A pleasant aperitif, as well as a good chaser for a short quick whiskey, as well again for a fine supper drink, is beer.
Or you can broil the meat, fry the onions, stew the garlic in the red wine...and ask me to supper. I'll not care, really, even if your nose is a little shiny, so long as you are self-possessed and sure that wolf or no wolf, your mind is your own and your heart is another's and therefore in the right place.
There is a mistaken idea, ancient but still with us, that an overdose of anything from fornication to hot chocolate will teach restraint by the very results of its abuse.
Probably no strychnine has sent as many husbands into their graves as mealtime scolding has, and nothing has driven more men into the arms of other women as the sound of a shrill whine at table.
Talleyrand said that two things are essential in life: to give good dinners and to keep on fair terms with women. As the years pass and fires cool, it can become unimportant to stay always on fair terms either with women or one's fellows, but a wide and sensitive appreciation of fine flavours can still abide with us, to warm our hearts.