07 July 2012

Weekend Cooking: A Tale of Two Dinners (M. F. K. Fisher)

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One of my favorite authors is M. F. K. Fisher, who is most well known for her food writing. Today, I'm going to share a couple of quotes from two memorable meals: the bad and the good.

The first description comes from one of Fisher's journals and wasn't written for publication (you'll notice the change in style when you read the second quote). The dinner took place in California, when Fisher was home after having lived in France.
The supper chez Hinchman was one of the worst meals I've ever eaten, but the people were good. There was a great tub of spaghetti cooked with cheap oil and hamburger meat and no imagination, a salad so badly mixed that the salt and the oil and the garlic came in gobs, and, most god-awful, saucers of pink gelatin. I was almost too depressed to be revived, but the people were quite interesting. (1/12/1934)
—from Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me (Random House /Pantheon Books, 1993)

In the following scene, Fisher describes a dinner she put together when her younger brother came for a visit, accompanied by a young woman whom Fisher and her and her husband (Chexbres) hadn't yet met. The evening took place in the late 1930s in France.
First we drank a delicate broth made of chicken stock and white wine and fresh tomato juice, the three iced and mixed together just before we sat down. Then there were little hot cheese tarts, made in Vevey that afternoon. With them we drank a three-year-old Faverges from the vineyard across the road, a high thin white wine like all those of the coast we lived on. Then there was a tray of cold roast pigeons lying on a bed of herbs from our garden, and a big earthen tureen of all the small summer vegetables we could find, cooked whole and separately and then tossed together with sweet butter. There was bread, fresh and crusty.

And we drank one of our best wines, a Corton 1929 sent from the Chateau for a present the year before. It was beautiful with the strong simple food. We all raised our glasses before the first sip, and then for a few seconds we could but stay silent, with its taste under our tongues. I looked down the long table through the candlelight and saw Chexbres, and all was well with me.
—from The Gastronomical Me (North Point Press, 1989)

M. F. K. Fisher wrote about her life, her marriages, and her children. She wrote about food, wine, and cooking. She wrote about what she thought and observed. If you haven't yet read her, pick up one of her books and begin.


Marg 7/7/12, 6:04 AM  

I have been meaning to buy something by M F K Fisher. It will probably be one of the Penguin Great Food series which is an extract of one of her books, but I think that will be a good introduction!

caite 7/7/12, 6:19 AM  

ok, I find the image of those pigeons just a bit disturbing..just call them something else and I would be fine with it...lol

bermudaonion 7/7/12, 7:18 AM  

There is a definite difference in the style of writing. I can forgive a so so meal with the right company. I'm with Caite on those pigeons! lol

Anonymous,  7/7/12, 7:58 AM  

I'm not sure about those piegons, but I love the long leisurely dinner.

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 7/7/12, 8:10 AM  

I have many of her books, and the surprise of knowing her daughter. I have also been enjoying the books about her.

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 7/7/12, 8:42 AM  

If she called them squab I'd have been more inclined to taste, but I enjoyed her writing :)

Uniflame 7/7/12, 10:22 AM  

I never heard of the author. Thanks for sharing :)

Julie Goucher 7/7/12, 11:14 AM  

I had not heard of this author either!

Patty 7/7/12, 11:15 AM  

true, the first is closer to the reality while the second quote is a lot more dreamy... I pick the second for my (gastronomical) adventures

Col (Col Reads) 7/7/12, 2:02 PM  

Great post. I am reading "How to Cook a Wolf" right now. She's inspiring.

Vasilly 7/7/12, 2:39 PM  

M.F.K. Fisher is a writer that I've been meaning to read for the longest time now. There's a big difference between the two passages but I love the reality of the first one.

Carole 7/7/12, 4:47 PM  

Beth - I found your post really interesting. I have linked in a pork and apple curry and Food on Friday: Chicken - which has been going gangbusters - currently 78 links to all sorts of yummy chicken ideas.

Have a super week.

Joy Weese Moll 7/7/12, 10:59 PM  

I want to read M.F.K. Fisher. I feel like I'm very familiar with her, but it's only because I've seen her quoted so often!

Anonymous,  7/7/12, 11:44 PM  

I like how blunt she was. Of course, it was her journal...

Heather 7/8/12, 3:07 AM  

Even though I'd much rather be at the second meal, I'll stick to the wine and skip the little birds. On my honeymoon, the hotel treated all the newlyweds to a special meals. It included tiny birds. I placed my dinner napkin over them so I would be able to eat the rest of the meal.
I'm on vacation this week, but have left a post about a lovely bridal tea I hosted.

Heather S-G 7/8/12, 8:15 AM  

MFK Fisher is so amazing...I could read her books all day long. Such a way with words!

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/8/12, 8:24 AM  

I have not read M.L.K. Fisher, but have heard of her. I'll have to look for her books.

Julie P. 7/8/12, 9:53 AM  

I must be living under a rock because I've never even heard of her!

JoAnn 7/8/12, 11:31 AM  

I just love M.F.K. Fisher's writing - thanks for the quotes.

Nan 7/8/12, 12:48 PM  

I really must read more of her work. I think I've just read one, and that was a long while ago.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 7/8/12, 1:52 PM  

I'm not at all familiar with M F K Fisher but she sounds like an author I would really enjoy. The quotes you provided are simply mouthwatering!

Julie Goucher 7/11/12, 6:30 AM  

Just added a second posting and shared a delicious looking recipe!

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