food writing / memoir
A classic of food writing, Daunt Books have reissued a neglected gem in M.F.K. Fisher’s gastronomic memoir. For a writer who despised the format of a personal essay, these reminiscences are close to the bone. Written when she was freshly widowed, pregnant to an undisclosed partner, raw with grief, this book carries the slightly vague, but intense feeling of daydreaming backwards to kinder times. At the time of its publication in 1943 food writing was considered light entertainment so The Gastronomical Me defied the expectations of girlish fluff, with luminaries like W.H. Auden saying “I do not know of anyone in the States who writes better prose.”
Starting in early childhood with the taste of the skimmed fuzz from the strawberry jam as her grandmother toiled at canning, Fisher’s anecdotes seem to be touchstones, times when the sensations were keenest. Her passages about shipboard eating “…by myself, slowly, voluptuously, and with an independence that heartened me against the coldness of my cabin and my thoughts” made me wish for a pinch of her bravado.
Its a strange book which sits between autobiography and Gourmet Traveler, and the prose is a piquant treat.
Daunt Books 2017 / first published 1943