Meredith's Challenge 2.0

52 books, one year. Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

#26 The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

Fun Fact: I bought this for $1 at a library book sale and I'm pretty certain that it is a first edition copy. It's a little beat up and doesn't have that nifty dust jacket either. So, it's probably not worth much, but still cool. It's amazing how well constructed it is compared to books that are being printed now. I have the feeling that my first edition copy of Half-Blood Prince will have long fallen apart fifty years hence while Fisher will be in just as good shape as when it was first sold, more than hundred years previous. Enough dorkiness for now? Lost all my readership? Check.

I didn't know that Fisher was such a racy writer (at least for her time) until I read this She talks about "extreme sexual overexcitment", divorce, extramarital affairs (her own), lesbianism and aphrodisiacs. I shouldn't be too surprised though. "Foodies" ought to be sensualists, at least the good ones. Go watch Babette's Feast, if you don't believe me.

This is the third time I've picked this up but the only time I completed it. It was hard for me to get into. However by the end, I decided I liked it because it has fascinating insights into how people lived before WWI, at least gastronomically. I was particularly interested in how people cooked with limited refrigeration, kitchen space and no electricity or gas heating element. Fisher makes it sound like it wasn't too hard but a) she was a very fine cook, b) she didn't have any other experience or choices and c) she was in France! I get the feeling that France is an easy place to eat. You go around the corner to the fromagerie, get a hunk of brie, a few store fronts down is the boulangerie and a few more is the grocer's or a farmers' market. One day, I will go to Europe and discover this all for myself, but until then, I can just read about other people's experiences and be horribly jealous of those who have gone with out me.

I really enjoyed how she wove her life into her experiences with food, i.e. her childhood, her boarding school, her trips back and forth across the States and the Atlantic, and her romantic relationships. I don't think that people who aren't interested in food and/or history would like this but I could be wrong. Anyone out there to disprove my theory?


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