Being not only a fan but a friend of MFK Fisher, I was totally delighted and truly grateful for this opportunity to peek in on her once again in the company of such fantastic writers. As noted in Eliot's Eats, who knows what Fisher might think of blogging considering her famous “snarkiness” at anything overly trendy. “The cuisine was good,” she once commented about a meal at one of San Francisco’s trendy restaurants whose chef had served each course atop its respective painterly sauce; “definitely the Puddle School from start to finish, but all very fresh and good as well as stylish.” In her personal lexicon, the single word stylish was death.
But I do know that no one appreciated good, clear, sensuous writing more than Mrs. Fisher; and that, in abundance, is what we have here in these Cook the Books essays. I suspect that the quality of the writing might be enough for her to forgive any offending trendiness.
However, you people didn’t do me any favors giving me such an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. Your discussions both of Fisher's menus and of her message showed such sensitivity and appreciation of them in the context of their original intent. Everyone took liberties with the literalness of the recipes, which is exactly what she would have done. And in fact, that's what she did do as witness her comments on her own comments a decade after the initial publication. Best of all, all the Cook the Books riffs were delightful.
Getting to specifics:
Girlichef: I really loved the way the essay learned from itself and expanded into something other than how it started out. Girlichef's observations and openness to experimenting ("I’d never eaten sweet-ish pasta…and needed to remedy that immediately") made for an evolving adventure. Beautifully written, it sparkled with touches of humor, and the final insight is a lesson for us all: "I look forward to inviting the chaos into many more meals." And I look forward to actually making that spaghetti with almonds in cinnamon honey butter. Who knew?
Sweet Almond Tree gave us a sober sense of moment with its reality check on living in wartime. The personal nature of her references lent a particular poignancy to her observations; yet the piece is alive with occasional humor (the "polenta guru," the christening of Socrates ("a righteous dude")). And her summation of Fisher precepts is a cogent synthesis of the whole book. The story and the recipe for Strapasada were so compelling that, the afternoon I read it, I actually changed my dinner menu in midstream!
So I guess that means two winners for the wonderful Wolf roundup with extremely honorable mentions all around. And again, thank you all for involving me in this fun and soul-satisfying project.
Congratulations to the winners! As always, the prize is the Cook the Books Winner's Badge to be displayed on the blog:
A big Thank you! to our judge for her thoughtful and delightful words.
Looking ahead: Our current selection (soon to be formally announced by Heather) is The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy.