"To be happy you must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passion, and learned your place in the world." —George Santayana, quoted in the beginning of The Gastronomical Me
Once upon a time in New York City, I had a mad heiress friend who was a shimmering culinary sorceress (with one of the most quicksilver minds I have ever known). She once enjoined we, her guests, to "quaff immortality and joy” and revealed, when pressed, that the source of the dark and subtle mystery of her sauce had come from dust from a first edition of Les Fleur du Mal! We believed her.
I was nineteen when she gave me my first copy of MFK Fisher’s The Art of Eating (a '70s compilation of five of her books) after sharing perfect pears and an eighty-year-old Chateau Yquem. She wrote an inscription that read, “Here’s to slow, voluptuous concentration and the rapturous capacity to create and discover magic.”
I think that book helped shape the person I was to become as well as forever change how I feel about food and the way I use it to relate to friends and loved ones. A close friend once told a new boyfriend of mine that I show love through cooking. I was touched and knew it to be so. There are conversations of tastes and sensualities to be shared and enjoyed, disasters to be laughed at, and all the while nourishing, nourishing.
MFK Fisher believed that eating well was one of the “arts of life." She practiced what she preached and wrote more than twenty books beginning with Serve It Forth in 1937. What is so often said of her writing is that she transcended her format. She wasn’t a great cooking writer; she was a great writer. In 1963 W.H. Auden called her “America’s greatest writer.” The New York Times said, “M. F. K. Fisher was a writer who skirted classification. Her food writing read like love stories, her fiction like memoirs.”