M.F.K. Fisher
By: Tom Nealon | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Literature

Long before David Foster Wallace asked that we Consider the Lobster, M.F.K. FISHER (Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, 1908-92) had us considering, instead, the oyster. Somehow, though she takes us through the tumultuously sedentary life of an oyster, its travails, hopes, fears, and sex changes, at the end it seems just as natural to want to eat one. Immediately. To hear M.F.K. Fisher talk of shellfish, crusty bread or omelettes, is to devour a pleasing, and somehow intuitive, fantasy that everything happens while we are eating, waiting to eat, or having just eaten. The recipes that she sprinkles throughout her work, charming as they often are, are the only moments when you remember that she is writing about food intentionally — though perhaps it’s better that the illusion is occasionally broken, or else we would just curl up in her sensual (and so rarely sentimental) world and never depart. For highbrow and middlebrow food writers, food is metaphor, metonymy, but for Fisher, like Brillat-Savarin and Grimod de La Reynière, food requires no justification, no retreat to the cerebral. Fisher’s lack of pretension — particularly in her classic of careful wartime cooking How to Cook a Wolf (1942) — is a comforting reminder that we all eat, we all have hungers, and that by hungering, and feeding that hunger, we participate in our humanity.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Franz Kafka and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

READ MORE about members of the Partisans Generation (1904-13).

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Tom Nealon runs the online rare bookshop Pazzo Books specializing in early printed books, cookery and literature. In his spare time he works on barbecue techniques in the test pit in his backyard. He can be found at pazzobooks.com and @pazzobooks on twitter.