The quirky chapter titles delight on their own, but it is even more fun to track down the source, often obscure, for each title within the chapter. Who would think that a chapter on fish would be called “How to Spring Like a Flea,” or that meats would be “A Proverbial Matter?” A personal favorite is the chapter on “Hunger and Enjoyment” entitled “Once a Tramp, Always…” Inexplicably, this section lies between the chapter on rice and grains, and that regarding eggs.
Within the chapter, it is often difficult to see the progression of Fisher’s thought until one has read all the way through. Those expecting a brief description of a course and then the nuts and bolts of recipes may be first alarmed, then charmed by Fisher’s seemingly aimless rambles into history, culture, and most often the land of her memories. However, it behooves the reader to pay attention. The eccentric aunt is far sharper than she appears, and the knife of her prose always has a keen edge and a sharp point.
For my own part, I would have been delighted to come across With Bold Knife and Fork solely for its inclusion of the recipe for “Nut Tree Bread.” This “titbit” gave me my own M.F.K. Fisher moment as it drew me into my own Northern California childhood where the sun filtered through the atrium windows of the iconic restaurant, and an appetizer of marshmallow fondue warred with the presence of my own little loaf of bread (and real knife!) for my delight. The Nut Tree restaurant may linger only in memory, but With Bold Knife and Fork provides a similar experience of nostalgic perfection – flavor, comfort, surprises, and diversions in ideal balance.