Voices I Love: MFK Fisher

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. Getting back into the habit of reading nightly before bed, plowing through book after book and lining up what's to be read next, has reminded me of how much pleasure I derive from certain authors. Last week, running across two authors I had not encountered in years brought back fond memories of who and where I was the first time I read them, and became the impetus for this post and a future one that is in the works.

First, in the July issue of Gourmet magazine, I ran across a brief (I thought too brief) article commemorating the books and journals of MFK Fisher, an author and pioneer of food writing, memoir writing, and living well. Just one look at the picture above gives you a good sense of the woman, a glass of wine in one hand, and a backdrop of stacks and stacks of books. This is a woman who clearly found her place in life. From the smile on her face, we can tell that she knows it, too.

My first encounter with MFK Fisher was when I was in my early twenties, I was living alone in a big city, it was a rainy afternoon and I was in a bookstore. There I found The Gastronomical Me staring at me from a shelf of books. Part memoir, part exposition on the sensual pleasures of cooking and enjoying a well cooked meal, it was my introduction into the genre of food writing. Yet, it was also much more than that. MFK Fisher always wrote about her life in relation to food, not just the meal she prepared, but who was there to share it with her, what was going on outside the kitchen or dining room window as well as within her own thoughts.

MFK Fisher was born in Albion, Michigan in 1908, but is better known, through her writing, of her life in France and then in California. So while she was writing about food, she was also chronicaling her own life. In How to Cook a Wolf she wrote of how to cope with war-time rationing while trying to put a meal on the table. Her style of writing was spare, practical, but with an appreciation of the beauty of preparing a meal for those you loved.

Here's a brief biographic clip on MFK Fisher that I grabbed from YouTube. It will provide you with a visual sense of the author, as well as a recording of her actual voice. As with the picture above, the video gives you a sense of her pleasure in being at the table and among friends. She was clearly comfortable in her own skin.

There are authors who seem to more than simply write books, they become the embodiment of their books, or perhaps more truthfully, through their incredible writing abilities, they are able to create books which are embodiments of themselves, of their uniqueness as individuals. I think it is this talent which makes them singular voices that are not only memorable but iconic.

Photo Credit: Acrylic and silver leaf on canvas, 1991National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian InstitutionT/NPG.92.173.02© Ginny Stanford

I suppose, one sign that you've really made an impression is when your portrait ends up in the National Portrait Gallery....but I would guess that what is even more valuable to MFK Fisher is knowing that her legacy is in the words that are imprinted in the hearts and minds of her readers, how she was able to share with them her view of the world.

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Jennifer S said…
I haven't read her, but she sounds really interesting. I will definitely add her to my list. Thanks for the recommendation!
Anonymous said…
I love MFK Fisher! She is one of the first authors I ever wanted to send a fan letter to. Sadly, She had died only a couple of months before I had found her.
Her "Consider the Oyster" is so great.
Like i said, I love her.
FirstPersonArts said…
Your blog came up on my morning google alert for folks interested in memoir writing, and I thought you might like First Person Arts’ Impressions competition running through August 15th. It includes a competition for short documentary films (under 5 minutes) and documentary photo essays (5 images or fewer), but the memoir competition calls for 1500 words. Check out the competition website here: http://impressions.firstpersonarts.org and find out more about First Person Arts, a Philly non-profit dedicated to memoir and documentary art, at http://www.firstpersonarts.org

We’ve got some excellent judges, and the winning entries will get some very nice exposure, not to mention a little cash. It would be great if you could post about this on your blog and/or pass it around to your friends or writers groups. If you send me a note, I’ll happily forward you a flyer. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks,

Anonymous said…
I LOVE MFK! Seriously, she's up there for me, right behind Katherine Hepburn. The good life, indeed...
Keetha said…
What a great post! I've long been crazy about MFK Fisher. Like Melissa said, she's like a Katherine Hepburn. A foodie Katherine Hepburn. I've read several of her books and would have trouble choosing a favorite. This post was a great tribute.

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