Fisher, M.F.K. With Bold Knife and Fork. G.P. Putnam and sons, 1968.
Reason read: March is Food Month.
Fisher is one of the best known and well loved food writers of the last century. When I told someone I was reading With Bold Knife and Fork her immediate reaction was a one word exclamation, “love!” And speaking of love, I loved, loved, loved some of the snarky phrases Fisher used. Here are a few, “…floating dunghill of lassitude, corruption, dirt, and whatever evil I have ever recognized as such” (p 171), “Stuffed with prejudices” (p 287) and “culinary monkey” (p 291). But, back to the “plot” of With Bold Knife and Fork. Fisher will walk you down a myriad of memory lanes with food and how it related to her childhood or the social norms of the day. It was amusing to think of a very young M.F.K. Fisher as a child hearing the siren’s song and feeling the pull towards decadent food. There is a definite humor to her storytelling. I had to laugh when she talked about a pressure cooker and how “it should never be used by a person taking tranquilizers or alcohol for his own reasons, or one with a fever or the deep blues” (p 164). There is also a didactic nature to Fisher. I appreciated learning the difference between preserves, conserves, jellies, jams, honeys, and marmalades.
As an aside, what is so special about offal? Everything But The Squeal and With Bold Knife and Fork both offer pretty descriptive passages on the “delicacy.” Can is ask? The phrase, “tuck into.” Is that the act of starting to eat or the actual consumption of food?
Last off-topic observation: the quote reminded me of an episode of This Is Us, “We are so conditioned to this threat of the Secret Ingredient, and this acceptance of trickery, that even honesty has become suspect when we are brash enough to ask for recipes” (p 292).
Author fact: Fisher is a self-professed soy addict.
Book trivia: More memoir than cookbook, With Bold Knife and Fork offers 140 interesting recipes.
Favorite quotes, “Rice can be cooked in two basic ways, right and wrong” (p 79). Not helpful. Not helpful at all. Another quote, “There is a mistaken idea, ancient but still with us, that an overdose of anything from fornication to hot chocolate will teach restraint by the very results of its abuse” (p 99). One last one, “I like tomatoes but can skip them when I know I should for other people’s dietary or emotional reasons” (p 157), and last one “It is hot as the hinges of hell’s front door…” (p 302). the devil in me wanted to ask what about hell’s back door?
Playlist: “Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear” and “W.S. gilbert’s “Patience.”
Nancy said: Pearl said writing about food is how Fisher expressed her love.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91).
What happened in November? I finished physical therapy. But really, PT is not finished with me. I signed up for a 5k in order to keep the running alive. As soon as I did that I needed x-rays for the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my hip and groin. Like stabbing, electrocuting pains. Diagnosis? More sclerosis and fusing. Yay, me! In defiance of that diagnosis I then signed up for a 21k. I am officially crazy.
Here are the books finished for the month of November:
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB/print)
- The Edge of the Crazies by Jamie Harrison
- Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Beaufort by Ron Leshem
- Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher
- No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher (finally finished!)
- Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman
- Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel
- I Will Bear Witness: the Nazi Years, 1942 – 1945 by Victor Klemperer
Early Review for LibraryThing: nothing. I jinxed myself by mentioning the book I was supposed to receive. Needless to say, it never arrived. So I never finished it. Ugh.
Fisher, M.F.K. The Gastronomical Me. New York: North Point Press, 1989.
Reason read: November is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month.
This is a series of essays written about Fisher’s life between 1912 and 1941. She covers a wide range of topics; from the first time food became significant to her as a teenager in boarding school to her adventures as a newly married wife living in France. When she said goodbye to her Californian-American palate and encountered French cuisine it was like having an epiphany for Fisher. Her ears (and taste buds) were open to a whole new way of experiencing food and drink. Sprinkled throughout the stories are glimpses of Fisher’s personal history. Her relationship with sister Norah and brother David, the demise of her first marriage with Al, the slow death of her second love, Chexbres, and her awakening to a different culture in Mexico. At times I found Fisher’s language to be overly dramatic. I wondered if she spoke like that in real life.
Confessional: I found Fisher to be a bit snobbish. Every time she called someone stupid or simple for whatever reason, I cringed.
Quote I cared for, “Everyone knows, from books or experience, that living out of sight of any shore does rich and powerful things to humans (p 40).
Author fact: Fisher has written over thirty books. I have already read A Considerable Town for the Challenge and have two more to go. Another more basic piece of trivia is that M.F.K. stands for Mary Frances Kennedy.
Book trivia: Gastronomical Me has been called Fisher’s most autobiographical work and has been considered her best.
Nancy said: M.F.K. Fisher “expresses her love of good food and its importance in the lives of families and communities” (p 91).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91).
running – oops – I mean the training is officially over. I don’t know where the run will go from here. I am toying with a 5k for Safe Passage next month. To hell with toys. I WILL run for Safe Passage next month! But really, I don’t even want to think about that right now since PT has ended. For now, I still have the books. The list is long because we aren’t going anywhere for Thanksgiving. Here’s to four days off with nothing to do but read, read, read. Here is what’s on tap for November:
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB) ~ in honor of November being the best time (supposedly) to visit India (AB / print). Confessional: I think I would like to remove the category of “Best time to visit fill-in-the-blank.” How am I to know when is the best time to visit a country when I have never been there myself? I’m getting a little tired of saying “supposedly” the best time to visit.
- Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay ~ in honor of Kay’s birth month
- Beaufort by Ron Leshem ~ in honor of Lebanon gaining independence in November
- Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher ~ to recognize National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month
- No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher ~ to continue (and finally finish) the series started in August in honor of Idaho
- Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman ~ to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents month
- I Will Bear Witness/To the Bitter End by Victor Klemperer ~ to continue the series started in October in honor of Klemperer’s birth month
- Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel ~ yes, I am still reading this. Just tying up loose ends.
Early Review for LibraryThing IF it arrives (so far it hasn’t):
- Jam Today: a Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got by Tod Davies
If there is time:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love (fiction) by Michael Malone ~ in honor of Malone’s birth month
- The Edge of the Crazies (fiction) by Jamie Harrison ~ in honor of Montana becoming a state in November.
- The Caliph’s House (fiction) by Tahir Shah ~ in honor of November being the month Morocco gained independence.
May is ending with disappointment. The caboose of the story (instead of the whole train) is that due to work obligations Kisa & I were not able to make it to Maine for a long weekend over the holiday. As a result I had to burn two vacation days at home. June will be a better month. But, to be fair – May wasn’t so shabby for books:
- Brilliant Orange by David Winner
- Bold Spirit by Linda Hunt
- Jordan by E. Borgia
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn
- Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill
- The Chosen by Chaim Potok
- Map of Another Town by MFK Fisher
- All the Rage by Martin Moran (ER)
- Arab and Jew by David Shipler
- Perks of Being a Wallflower by David Chbosky
- Master of the Senate by Robert Caro
For JUNE, here are the books & why:
- Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada by Zoe Valdes in honor of Caribbean Heritage Month
- Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill to continue the series started in May
- Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich in honor of her birth month
- The Millstone by Margaret Drabble in honor of family month
- A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan in honor of World War II (D-Day)
June is National Short Story Month:
- from Birds of America by Lorrie Moore:
- Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens
- People Like That are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk
- from Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger:
- The Orphan
- Outside the Eastern Gate
- from Nine Stories by JD Salinger:
- A Perfect Day for a Bananafish
- For Esme: with Love & Squalor
Fisher, MFK. Two Towns in Provence: Map of Another Town. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.
Reason read: to finish the collection started in April in honor of Paris.
Two Towns in Provence contains two shorter geographical portraits, Map of Another Town and A Considerable Town. Confessional: I read them backwards: I thought Considerable Town was first until I received Two Towns in Provence.
There is no doubt a love-hate story within the pages of Two Towns. Fisher’s connection to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille couldn’t be clearer. In Map of Another Town Fisher focuses on Aix-en-Provence, France’s capital. Her stories weave around her time bringing up two small daughters, renting an apartment, and observing people and their culture. She spends a fair amount of time having imaginary exchanges with the locals. Most striking were the lessons on society and class: no matter the level of distress a person should not accept help from someone of a lower class and getting a child vaccinated was a process.
Quotes I’d like to quote, “It pressed upon my skin like the cold body of someone unloved” (p 17), “I wrapped myself in my innocence” (p 125), and “He was a man of the same indescribably malnourished twisted non-age of all such physical jetsam being helped by government benevolence…” (p 200).
Author fact: Once I am attuned to a language I seem to latch onto it. Words like evil, dangerous, hell, shabby, grotesque, dirty, desolate…Fisher complains for a lot of Map of another Town. I don’t know what it was about her tone, but she came across as bitchy to me. Fisher seems uncomfortable with the sick or elderly, always hurrying away from the dying. She seems easily annoyed by those around her.
Book trivia: Map of Another Town has wonderful illustrations by Barbara Westman. In the midst of this coloring craze, I could see someone filling in the black and white drawings with a little color.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Provence and the South of France” (p 187).
I never recapped April nor predicted May. For the first time ever, April books are still being read. To be fair, the Lyndon Johnson series started in February so technically these leftovers are not specific either April nor May.
April was an oddball month in that my reading was all on the fly. I trained for another half marathon and that took a lot of my time. Not nearly as much as the full mara, but still…
Here are the Challenge books finished in April:
- King Lear – Shakespeare (not scheduled)
- Guernica – Van Hensbergen (not scheduled)
- Grand Tour – Tim Moore
- Green Thoughts – Eleanor Perenyi
- Alice in Sunderland – Bryan Talbot
- Considerable Town – M F K Fisher
- Don’t Eat This Book – Morgan Spurlock
Here are the just for fun books:
- Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – John Gottman
- Spark Joy – Marie Kondo (not scheduled)
Here’s what on tap for May:
For the Early Review program through LibraryThing:
- All the Rage by Martin Moran
To celebrate May:
- Brilliant Orange: the Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer by David Winner ~ in honor of the tulip festival in Holland
- Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt ~ in honor of Just ‘Cause and their 60-mile walk (although this year it’s in June).
- Jordan: Past & Present: Petra, Jerash & Amman by E. Borgia ~ in honor of Jordan gaining independence in the month of May
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandre Solzhenitsyn ~ in honor of Russia’s Victory Day (may 9th, 1945)
- Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill ~ to celebrate Laos Rocket Day (already read – this took me less than a day)
- Chosen, the by Chaim Potok ~ in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month (AB – already read)
- Map of Another Town by MFK Fisher ~ to finished the Two Towns book started in April
- Master of the Senate by Robert Caro ~ to finished the series started in February in honor of Presidents’ Day.
Fisher, M.F.K. A Considerable Town. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1978.
Reason read: Dual reasons: April is food month and Fisher is a food writer. Also, does anyone know the song, April in Paris? Need I say more?
The first thing you need to know about A Considerable Town is that it is not a travel or guide book. The first time Fisher visited Marseille the year was 1929. She is back again…only it’s 1976 (yes, you read that right). A Considerable Town was published in the same year but is full of observations of a city Fisher had obviously fallen in love with. Reading this in 2016, some sixty years later, felt a little dated and left me wondering how much, or how little, Marseille had changed in all that time. Fisher noted changes between her 1929 and 1976 visits.
The other thing you need to know about A Considerable Town is that Fisher takes you on a journey that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Her observations of people, places and events bring Marseille alive so much so that she accomplishes the opposite of a tour/guide book. Instead of preparing the reader to visit the region, she makes the reader feel as though he or she has already been there.
Probably the most touching part of A Considerable Town was towards the end when Fisher is trying to make her two young daughters feel at “home” in Marseille at Christmas time. Decorating the tree was especially poignant.
Quotes to quote, “During the market hours there, men sold their catches too, but it was the women who dominated, at least in decibels” (p 67), “Sobriety is a rare and dubious virtue, if that at all, with people under heavy stress like cabbies, cooks, and even politicians” (p 115) and “Every kitchen and winery has its own share of idiots, rascals and wretches” (p 120).
Author fact: Fisher spent some time at the University of Dijon in France.
Book trivia: A Considerable Town and Map of Another Town make up Two Towns in Provence. Don’t be disappointed but there are no pictures of Marseille in A Considerable Town.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Florence and the South of France” (p 187).
I don’t know where March went. I’ve looked under calendars and in date books and I still can’t figure it out. The month went by so fast! Here are the books finished for March:
- Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
- The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
- Family Man by Jayne Krentz
- Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (AB)
- The Brontes by Juliet Barker (DNF)
- Means of Ascent by Robert Caro (DNF)
- Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan (Fun)
- In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (would have been an Early Review book a long time ago)
On tap for April (besides a little Noodle 5k run):
- A Considerable Town by MFK Fisher ~ in honor of April being the best time to visit France
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman ~ for fun
- Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi ~ in honor of gardening month
- Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot ~ in honor of April Fools
- Don’t Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock ~ in honor of April being Food Month (AB)
- The Grand Tour by Tim Moore ~ in honor of Harvey Ball passing in April