"When I write about hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth, and the love of it - and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied. "
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher was a prolific and well-respected writer, writing more than 20 books during her lifetime and also publishing two volumes of journals and correspondence shortly before her death in 1992. Her first book, Serve it Forth, was published in 1937. Her books deal primarily with food, considering it from many aspects: preparation, natural history, culture, and philosophy. Fisher believed that eating well was just one of the "arts of life" and explored the art of living as a secondary theme in her writing. Her style and pacing are noted elements of her short stories and essays.
A memoir of travel, love, and loss, but above all hunger.
In 1929 a newly married Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher said goodbye to America and sailed with her husband to Dijon France, where she tasted real French cooking for the first time.
It inspired a prolific career as a food and travel writer. In The Gastronomical Me Fisher traces the development of her appetite, from her childhood in America to her arrival in Europe, where she embraced a whole new way of eating, drinking, celebrating the senses and living. She recounts unforgettable meals shared with an assortment of eccentric characters, set against a backdrop of mounting pre-war tensions.
Here are meals as seductions, educations, diplomacies, and communions, in settings as diverse as a bedsit above a patisserie, a Swiss farm, and cruise liners across oceans. In prose convivial and confiding, Fisher illustrates the art of ordering well, the pleasures of dining alone, and how to eat so you always find nourishment, in both head and heart.
The book was first published in 1943.
“Paris was everything that I had dreamt, the late September when we first went there. It should always be seen, the first time, with the eyes of childhood or of love.”
"There in Dijon, the cauliflowers were very small and succulent, grown in that ancient soil. I separated the flowerlets and dropped them in boiling water for just a few minutes. Then I drained them and put them in a wide shallow casserole, and covered them with heavy cream, and a thick sprinkling of freshly grated Gruyere, the nice rubbery kind that didnt come from Switzerland at all, but from the Jura. It was called rape in the market, and was grated while you watched, in a soft cloudy pile, onto your piece of paper".
The first thing I remember tasting and then wanting to taste again is the grayish-pink fuzz my grandmother skimmed from a spitting kettle of strawberry jam. I suppose I was about four.
Women in those days made much more of a ritual of their household duties than they do now. Sometimes it was indistinguishable from a dogged if unconscious martyrdom. There were times for This, and other equally definite times for That. There was one set week a year for "the sewing woman." Of course, there was Spring Cleaning. And there were other periods, almost like festivals in that they disrupted normal life, which were observed no matter what the weather, finances, or health of the family.
Many of them seem odd or even foolish to me now, but probably the whole staid rhythm lent a kind of rich excitement to the housebound flight of time.
With us, for the first years of my life, there was a series, every summer, of short but violently active cannings. Crates and baskets and lug-boxes of fruits bought in their prime and at their cheapest would lie waiting with opulent fragrance on the screened porch, and a whole battery of enameled pots and ladles and wide-mouthed funnels would appear from some dark cupboard.
All I knew then about the actual procedure was that we had delightful picnic meals while Grandmother and Mother and the cook worked with a kind of drugged concentration in our big dark kitchen, and were tired and cross and at the same time oddly triumphant in their race against summer heat and processes of rot.
Now I know that strawberries came first, mostly for jam. Sour red cherries for pies and darker ones for preserves were a little later, and then came the apricots. They were for jam if they were very ripe, and the solid ones were simply "put up." That, in my grand mother's language, meant cooking with little sugar, to eat for breakfast or dessert in the winter which she still though of in terms of northern Iowa.
She was a grim woman, as if she had decided long ago that she could thus most safely get to Heaven. I have a feeling that my Father might have liked to help with the cannings, just as I longed to. But Grandmother, with that almost joyfully stern bowing to duty typical of religious women, made it clear that helping in the kitchen was a bitter heavy business forbidden certainly to men, and generally to children. Sometimes she let me pull stems off the cherries, and one year when I was almost nine I stirred the pots a little now and then, silent and making myself as small as possible.
But there was no nonsense anyway, no foolish chitchat. Mother was still young and often gay, and the cook too...and with Grandmother directing operations they all worked in a harried muteness...stir, sweat, hurry. It was a pity. Such a beautifully smelly task should be fun, I thought.
In spite of any Late Victorian asceticism, though, the hot kitchen sent out tantalizing clouds, and the fruit on the porch lay rotting in its crates, or readied for the pots and the wooden spoons, in fair glowing piles upon the juice-stained tables. Grandmother, saving always, stood like a sacrificial priestess in the steam, "skimming" into a thick white saucer, and I, sometimes permitted and more often not, put my finger into the cooling froth and licked it. Warm and sweet and odorous. I loved it, then.
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