Nicole Warren

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Seen & Read: September 12, 2013

Food Arts Staff - September 12th, 2013

This week’s Seen & Read is solely dedicated to our star of the week, M.F.K. Fisher.

Discover what book chefs such as Jacques Pépin, Bill Yosses, Jeremiah Tower, Norman Van Aken, and Darrell Corti (among others) would take to their desert island in Lunch with Mary Frances.

Gael Greene, The Insatiable Critic
Insatiable as I am, I'd have to choose The Art of Eating for my desert island reading. It would feed me a taste of everything, a reminder of books I'd read in full and loved.

I can't say M.F.K. had any influence on me. By the time I came to read Consider the Oyster, I had already discovered the link between the sensuality of eating and the sensuality of making love. So Colette and I were not alone out there.

Gary Tucker, senior editor
If I had to choose just one M.F.K. Fisher book to sustain me on a desert island, it would be the one I started a few years ago and then set aside because it was so good I didn’t want it to ever end.

Though I’d read bits and pieces of her vast repertoire here and there after first learning about her while I was in culinary school—mainly her brilliant translation of Brillat-Savarin’s] The Physiology of Taste and her primer on how to keep from starving during hard times in How to Cook a Wolf—there did seem to be an almost physical hurdle that we passed from not knowing her at all to the exalted state of familiarity with her name and reputation.

My everlasting book is Two Towns in Provence, a paperback compilation of two works: Map of Another Town (covering Aix-en-Provence) and A Considerable Town (on Marseille). I was captivated with her style and subject—was she an essayist or a memoirist? How had an American from California managed to gain such intimate and thorough knowledge of these two ancient French towns?

It gives me shivers to pick through the pages again, to remember how transfixed I became while engrossed in her writing. Put me on that island now!

Jacqueline Sainsbury, manager, Food Arts online
It's been a while since I've really sat down to read her works, so various scenes have all become rather muddled (although I must say, I always love recalling the same chapter Irene Sax mentioned, when Fisher is deftly handled by the French waitress). Flipping through the crispy, yellow pages of our office copy of The Art of Eating, searching for recipes to feature in yesterday's Plat du Chef, rekindled my total delight with her approach to life, food, and the typewriter. Or perhaps it took a second chance for me to see? Either way, I have pages of her recipes scattered across my desk; selected not for the dish, but again, because of her annotations and anecdotes around them. So what would my choice book be? A collection of them all (well, most anyway)! Is there such a thing? Would she have found my choice gluttonous?

Michael Batterberry, Food Arts' late founder and editor-in-chief
"Mrs. Fisher’s first book, Serve It Forth, was published in 1937. In its style and content, at once scrupulously clear and mysteriously complex, we find Fisher the food artist fully formed, beginning with the first sentence—'There are two kinds of books about eating: those that try to imitate Brillat-Savarin’s, and those that try not to.' Mrs. Fisher’s translation of that 19th century French epicure’s The Physiology of Taste should be periodically reread by anyone with a serious regard for food. For that matter, so should all the Fisher books still in print; thanks to the North Point publishing house, a number have been recently reissued. And for the bargain of the end of the century, rush out and buy The Art of Eating, a five-volume-in-one Fisher collection available in Vintage paperback—Not Now But Now— to quote the title of M.F.K. Fisher’s only published novel." —excerpted from our very first printed Silver Spoon award

If you would like to know more about M.F.K.'s works and works about M.F.K., click to view Sourcing Fisher.