June 10, 2006

The Gastronomical Me

I have finally gotten around to reading some MFK Fisher, and if you're a foodie of any sorts, you are probably way ahead of me. I just started The Gastronomical Me and I love it, of course. It paints the picture of a woman awakening in life through experiences in food. It was published in the 1943, but chronicles her life from 1912-1941. In 1929, she moves with her husband to Dijon, the gastro capital of the day. I haven't quite gotten there yet, but I already carry affection for this woman.

She's endearing when she relates anecdotes from her strict upbringing and you can easily sense the fiery woman buried beneath. I especially enjoy her descriptions of her parents, almost as if they are creatures to be studied. From her "grandmother's despotic bowels," which held their palates hostage, to her uncle Evans, who loved to drink beer and good whiskey. "I think he would have been a fine man to drink with, and by the time I knew how, and the country could, it was too late. He had been killed by a drunken driver." She paints the characters so easily, one can quickly identify someone you know in there place.

Above all, my favorite section so far, and the one that actually rocked me a bit, was written about her return from boarding school. She returned home to her persnickety parents in the country, with no friends, no direction; she was shy and as "sexless as a 90-year-old nun."

"And there I was suddenly, big, moody, full of undirected energies of a thousand kinds. Father and Mother, panicky, decided to put me in one of the large universities in Los Angeles, where I would 'be near home' until...until some miracle happened, I suppose.

But to be near home was the one thing I could not tolerate just then. I fought against it as instinctively as a person on the operating table fights against ether. The time had come for me to leave, and leave I must, strong always in the surety that I could return to my dear family."

There is something so delicious in reading that woman living generations ago were doing and feeling the same things that we are now. I'm sure everyone can relate to her writing. So living in Paris isn't such a novelty anymore as more and more people do it, but a lot of things remain. When Fisher talks of waving to her husband from her balcony and then getting back in bed, I did that! When she talks about potatoes deserving a place as a whole meal, not just in the word meat-and... And she found it existed in France. (And upon that discovery, she concludes "it was a fine moment," which cracks me up.) I read that when she returned from France, she worked in a frame shop that sold pornographic postcards, so I guess that's one way I don't need to follow in her footsteps, but it sure made me think outside the box...

I highly recommend this book and the many other volumes of her writing, including Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, and The Alphabet for Gourmets.


s'kat said...

Actually, I've never read MFK, but your lovely description has reminded me that it needs to go into my Amazon shopping cart. Thanks.

tanna said...

That does it, you've tipped the scale. I know know I really must read at least one of her books. Thanks for giving some precise details, now I being to see why so many say she is one to read.

Ivonne said...

Hi Megan,

Not to worry ... if you can believe it I haven't read any MFK Fischer. It's on my "to read" list but I just never seem to get to it.

Your post is wonderful! I can clearly tell how much you're enjoying reading this book. Here's hoping you discover even more of he writing!

emily said...

jeez, now why'd you have to go and describe it so beautifully? i guess there's a new addition to my "to read" pile...

i feel like the way you felt about this book is sort of the way i feel about freya stark and her travelogues. it can be slow reading, but fascinating and wonderful.