Like any self-respecting food lover (and writer), I’m well aware that, hands down, M.F.K. Fisher (Mary Frances) is our greatest food writer, and I’ve been pursuing the pleasurable endeavor of working my way through her entire catalog over the years.
As with my literature preferences, I find myself more often drawn to the classics, or, in this case, first flush of food writers who set the tone mid-20th century, like A.J. Liebling (read “Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris”) and Angelo Pellegrini (read “The Unprejudiced Palate”), though none have the impact on me that Fisher does.
She writes of food, travel, life but most importantly, she writes… drawing you in, enveloping you first and foremost with her person, heart, and poetic style.
There have been numerous books written about her over the years but one that landed on my desk was a 2008 UC Press edition of M.F.K. Fisher Among the Pots & Pans by Joan Reardon.
The book is a straightforward biography summarizing key points in Mary Frances’ (I love that Reardon calls her by the name she preferred to be called) life and complicated relationships, but through the intriguing slant of the many homes she lived in, particularly the kitchens she cooked in, from California to France.
Irish illustrator Avram Dumitrescu paints warm vignettes of her kitchens, imparting a friendly glow to the book, and complimenting photos of Mary Frances. Whether it be the cover illustration of her kitchen in Hemet, CA, or those in her St. Helena and Glen Ellen homes, one gets a glimpse into Mary Frances, the cook, though she was first and foremost a writer.
As her birthday recently came and went on July 3rd (she would have been 102), it’s as good a time as any to read and reflect on one of our most gifted writers, who just also happened to love food.