Friday, January 8, 2016



M.F.K. Fisher is the wry, critically acclaimed author of numerous gastronomically-minded books, several of which are considered literary classics. Her evocative prose, combined with an innate appreciation for food and cuisine, is no ordinary achievement, and helped define intelligent food writing in the twentieth century.

Fisher wrote some 27 books, including a translation of The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin.

How to Cook a Wolf was originally published in 1942, when the harsh impact of the Great Depression was still firmly entrenched in people’s minds, rationing and wartime shortages were at their peak, and financial prudence was the national state of mind.

In this book, a collection of essays whose title refers to the idiom “keep the wolf from the door,” Fisher imparts pertinent tips and helpful ideas that are primarily, but not entirely, of a culinary nature. Her musings about daily living provide valuable insights — sometimes unconventional — and she shows us ways to make do, and perhaps even prosper or at least set a fine table, even when “the wolf is at the door.”

The common-sense approach of Fisher’s anecdotal conversational narrative, sometimes tinged with irony, other times self-deprecating, is mostly an insightful antidote to surviving times when money is short, the pantry bare and the spirit depleted.

Fisher reminds us that poverty is neither a crime nor a sin, in chapter titles which include: How to be Sage without Hemlock; How to Boil Water; How to Rise Up Like New Bread and How Not to Boil an Egg. In the chapter, How to Keep Alive, Fisher offers an excruciatingly unappetizing recipe, for a dish she rightly refers to as sludge, and whose only meritorious claim is to maintain sustenance in the face of adversity. Particularly thoughtful for these economic times, this slightly dated but still relevant treatise reminds us that providing sustenance entails more than just merely getting food on the table.

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