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The Art of Eating [Paperback]

M. F. K. Fisher , Joan Reardon
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 5 2004
"Mary Frances [Fisher] has the extraordinary ability to make the ordinary seem rich and wonderful. Her dignity comes from her absolute insistence on appreciating life as it comes to her."

"How wonderful to have here in my hands the essence of M.F.K. Fisher, whose wit and fulsome opinions on food and those who produce it, comment upon it, and consume it are as apt today as they were several decades ago, when she composed them. Why did she choose food and hunger she was asked, and she replied, 'When I write about hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth, and the love of it . . . and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied.' This is the stuff we need to hear, and to hear again and again."

"This comprehensive volume should be required reading for every cook. It defines in a sensual and beautiful way the vital relationship between food and culture."

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A collection of essays by one of America's best known food writers, that are often more autobiographical or historical than anecdotal musings on food preparation and consumption. The book includes culinary advice to World War II housewives plagued by food shortages, portraits of family members and friends (with all their idiosyncrasies) and notes on her studies at the University of Dijon, in France. Through each story she weaves her love of food and passion for cooking, and illustrates that our three basic needs as human beings--love, food and security--are so intermingled that it is difficult to think of one without the others. The book won the 1989 James Beard Cookbook Award. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


This 50th anniversary paperback reprint contains what Julia Child referred to as "the essence of M.F.K. Fisher." Fisher (1908-1992) was one of this country's earliest food writers; her eloquent yet unostentatious prose has charmed generations. The 784-page collection brings together five works originally published under separate titles: "Serve it Forth," "Consider the Oyster," "How to Cook a Wolf," "The Gastronomical Me" and "An Alphabet for Gourmets." There are also recipes scattered throughout. (Washington Post, April 28, 2004)

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THERE are two kinds of books about eating: those that try to imitate Brillat-Savarin's, and those that try not to. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thank heavens, "Art of Eating" is back in print Oct. 27 2002
For some inexplicable reason, the brilliant writing of M.F.K.Fisher was out of print, or hard to obtain for a while. Her prose is possibly some of the best writing from the 20th Century, so the difficulty in getting her books was rather puzzling. If you read anyone who writes about cuisine, they always refer to M.F.K. Fisher as some kind of luminary. In "The Art of Eating", there is every opportunity to examine why her writing is held in such high esteem.
This book is a compilation of her most famous works "Consider the Oyster," "Serve It Forth," "How to Cook a Wolf," "The Gastronomical Me" and "An Alphabet for Gourmets." Each is quite different. "How to Cook a Wolf" is about cooking in times of want, in this case, World War II, but the book really becomes semi-autobiographical and talks about her young days in Dijon, where she was the wife of a student at the University.
If you haven't read M.F.K. Fisher, this is probably the best book to start with--it combines memoir with culinary musings; advice on scrambled eggs with her own ideas about health and nutrition. If you then can't get enough of Fisher, I recommend, "The Measure of Her Powers" which is much more autobiographical and utterly fascinating.
I actually read Fisher more for her memoirs. Her fascination with food and cooking is to me about life and art,--the French view of food not as something merely to fill the belly, but as an art form and a craft.
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5.0 out of 5 stars In the Kitchen, by fermed Feb. 19 2001
There are two types of cookbooks: those that you consult in order to learn how to prepare a specific dish (squid in its ink, for example) and those that you read when you are not in the kitchen and then allow to settle in your brain for a little while, and from which you decide, in time, to prepare something special. "The Joy of Cooking" is of the first type, the "Art of Eating" of the second kind.
There are two types of cookbook authors: those who did not follow a drive to become apothecaries and instead wound up in a kitchen. Now they issue a prescriptive formulary of carefully controlled measures, procedures, times, weights, and ingredients (no substitutions, please) in precise, neat, humorless texts: recipes by edict, if you will; and those who under other circumstances would have become poets or novelists, but instead wound up in the kitchen, from whence they issue lyrical prose as well as exquisite dishes. Their recipes are often vague, permissive, infuriating, but tolerant of errors. There are many who fit the first category and few (MFK Fisher among them) the second.
There are two ways of comparing cookbooks: by following recipes for highly complex dishes (beef Wellington, say) and tasting the results, or by following extremely simple recipes from each book and making gustatory comparisons (scrambled eggs, for instance). Scrambled eggs, according to general culinary wisdom, requires that eggs be beaten together "until the white and yolks are completely combined" (Joy of Cooking) or to be whisked briskly (Fanny Farmer).
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By A Customer
"The Art of Eating" is actually an omnibus edition of five works by MFK Fischer, originally published separately. These are "Consider the Oyster," "Serve It Forth," "How to Cook a Wolf," "The Gastronomical Me" and "An Alphabet for Gourmets." The book succeeds marvelously on different levels: first, Fischer was an exceedingly knowledgable and experienced cook and eater. As such, her essays are good reads just for the wealth of information they contain on all facets of cookery and dining. Second, and more importantly, she was a woman of enormous humanity; a quality that informs each of the works in this volume. Her ability to crystalize in words the underlying cultural and emotional associations of food, cooking and the dining experience is probably unmatched by any other food writer since. Again and again, she manages quite deftly to use simple anecdotes from her life to illustrate the deep attachments we all have with the food we eat and how we eat it. Her delivery of these insights is seldom heavy-handed; often, she manages to delight the reader by use of unexpected but well-grounded conclusions. One would need to explore the culinary writings of poets and novelists to find her equal on the subject.

There are drawbacks to the work, however. By gathering five different books into a single volume, a certain amount of repetition of some of her material becomes apparent. This is, of course, more the fault of the editor than of Fischer herself. No, Fischer's faults lie perhaps in a certain over-emphasis on the "sensitivity" of herself and her loved ones as contrasted with the rest of us Ya-hoos, and that she wrote before the emergence of American regional cuisine as a force in cookery, so that she sometimes denigrates things we feel more kindly toward today.

In all, though, The Art of Eating is a book that no serious cook or diner can afford to do without
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great classic that has finally found its way into my library.
Published 3 days ago by G. Bisaillon
5.0 out of 5 stars I cook fer a livin'...
This was a gift from an ex-occasional lover...This is what I'll remember her by. If you love to cook, if you love to eat...if you just love to read while you eat... Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2004 by mojostarz
5.0 out of 5 stars Best culinary book ever!
A wonderful book! Unappreciated. Mary Francis shows us that eating is life and life is eating, or at least, the good life is good eating. Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2002 by Georgia Petra
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the favorite books of a self confessed book addict
Once upon a time I worked for a chef who absolutely adored MFK Fisher (this was one of her only redeeming qualities) and although I love food and wine, I had never heard of her... Read more
Published on June 5 2002 by Kasey M. Moctezuma
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Shelf
For anyone who absolutely loves food; the preparation, the consumption, the discription...... this book is a must. Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2002 by LCBC
5.0 out of 5 stars A gastronomical tour de force
This book is not a cookbook (though it does contain some great recipes). And it isn't really just a memoir. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2001 by Megami
5.0 out of 5 stars Yum
A delicious and lyrical book. Best read with a piece of good cheese and some wine, or perhaps some good ripe fruit close to hand.
Published on June 13 2001 by "jettababs"
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcendant - a Gourmet's Fantasy Book Come True!
I don't dare try to compete with Ms Fisher's ability to spin stories about food and travel and life - no one can match her. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous
Ihave to say that this book rates as one of my favorite books. Ms Fisher writes with so much wit and intelligence. Read more
Published on July 5 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding tastes and utter decadence of food and life.
MFK Fisher brought to the front the simplicity of a baked potato and turned it into a ravishment. She does no less in her description of every preparation, meal, food, wine, and... Read more
Published on May 26 1999
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