December 5, 2011

MFK Fisher's Chapter Headings

My wife is a great champion of the food writer and memoirist MKF Fischer and often reads me excerpts. I've become a fan myself as Fischer's writing is spare, modern, dark and amusing.

These are Fischer's chapter headings (always great) from How to Cook a Wolf, a book published in 1942.

3 How to Be Sage Without Hemlock
10 How to Catch the Wolf
14 How to Distribute Your Virtue
26 How to Boil Water
46 How to Greet the Spring
53 How Not to Boil an Egg
66 How to Keep Alive
72 How to Rise Up Like New Bread
80 How to be Cheerful Through Starving
86 How to Make a Pigeon Cry
121 How to Pray for Peace
133 How to Be Content with a Vegetable Love
138 How to Make a Great Show
145 How to Have a Sleek Pelt
151 How to Comfort Sorrow
163 How to Be a Wise Man
167 How to Lure the Wolf

If you don't know Fischer's writing, I recommend this small except from The Gastronomical Me on the moment she discovered food. The passage also happens to be a nice piece on fatherhood.

"Then Father had to go back to work. It was decided that Mother would stay at the ranch and help put up more fruit, and Anne and I would go home with him. That was exciting as leaving it had been, to be alone with Father for the first time.

He says now that he was scared daft at the thought of it, even though our grandmother was at home as always to watch over us. He says he actually shook as he drove away from the ranch, with us like two suddenly strange small monsters on the hot seat beside him.

Probably he made small talk. I don't remember. And he didn't drink any beer, sensing that it would be improper before two un-chaperoned young ladies.

We were out of the desert and into deep winding canyons before the sun went down. The road was a little smoother, following the dry tawny hills of that part of California. We came to a shack where there was water for sale, and a table under the dark wide trees.

Father told me to take Anne down the dry streambed a little way. That made me feel delightfully grown-up. When we came back we held our hands under the water faucet and dried them on our panties, which Mother would never have let us do.

Then we sat on a rough bench at the table, the three of us in the deep green twilight, and had one of the nicest suppers I have ever eaten.

The strange thing about it is that all three of us have told other people that same thing, without ever talking of it among ourselves until lately. Father says that all his nervousness went away, and he saw us for the first time as two little brown humans who were fun. Anne and I both felt a subtle excitement at being alone for the first time with the only man in the world we loved.

(We loved Mother too, completely, but we were finding out, as Father was too, that it is good for parents and for children to be alone now and then with one another...the man alone or the woman, to sound new notes in the mysterious music of parenthood and childhood.)

That night I not only saw my Father for the first time as a person. I saw the golden hills and the live oaks as clearly as I have ever seen them since; and I saw the dimples in my little sister's fat hands in a way that still moves me because of that first time; and I saw food as something beautiful to be shared with people instead of as a thrice-daily necessity."

- From The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fischer.

posted at 12:44 PM by raul

Filed under: noted


12/06/11 05:58 AM

What a lovely passage, and such a coincidence--I have one of her books by my table here ready to read.

Have you heard about the discovery of Virginia Maier's work ?
It makes me tearful thinking that she never had appreciation in her lifetime for her work. Check out her self-portraits:

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