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You may recall that I found A Stew or a Story in New York City a few weeks ago. Because the book is a collection of M. F. K. Fisher's works (collected by Joan Reardon), it isn't necessary to read it in a linear fashion or all in one go. Periodically, I'll share my thoughts about articles and essays from this volume.
First up is a piece titled "Through a Glass Darkly," which was written for the Atlantic Monthly in 1944. The article is about how the California wine industry was being affected by the war, and Fisher laments that the war came so soon after Prohibition was lifted. In this short piece, here's one thing I learned: Some vineyards in California were close to 65 years old and producing decent wine before growers plowed under their vines at the start of Prohibition. After the repeal, some vintners opted for quick profits by buying cheaper vines and rushing wine to sale. I see in retrospect that this was one of the reasons California wines developed such a bad reputation.
Fisher mostly focuses on how the vineyards were suffering from the effects of the war. Much of what she wrote was new to me. I won't go into details, so you'll have something to discover if you decide to read the article yourself.
Second is "Ode to the Olive," published in Travel and Leisure in 1976. In this article, we learn of M. F. K.'s first taste of an olive and her love affair with the fruit. She was especially fond of pure virgin oil, "made from ripe, dark olives, . . . which have never fallen from the tree" (215). She mourns that fact that she cannot buy the wonderful olives she knew in Europe (it was the late 1970s, after all):
For me, olives and their oil are more essential than many other things I may want, like a vintage Rolls-Royce (not really), or an aluminum ladder so that I can mend my roof myself (217).Best of all, she describes a heavenly but simple meal prepared for her by a friend in France. The main dish was half of a fresh pan bagnat that had been "bathed in olive oil and covered with available delicacies" (217). I leave it you to discover the rest.
I will share more stories as I get to them.
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