Michael Batterberry - May 1990
Food Arts presents its May 1990 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance to M.F.K. Fisher, America’s preeminent food writer. It is she, more than any other, who has assured this country a permanent shelf in the world’s scanty library of sublime gastronomical literature. Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, the daughter of a newspaperman, was born in 1908 and raised in Whittier, California. In 1929, she married the first of three husbands, and moved with him to Dijon to pursue a remarkable self-education. There her talent for storytelling, penchant for food, cool poet’s vision, and passionate heart conspired to produce the rare, but hardy, hybrid bloom that is her inimitable writing.
Mrs. Fisher’s first book, Serve It Forth, was published in 1937. In its style and content, at once scrupulously clear and mysteriously complex, we find Fisher the food artist fully formed, beginning with the first sentence—“There are two kinds of books about eating: those that try to imitate Brillat-Savarin’s, and those that try not to.” Mrs. Fisher’s translation of that 19th century French epicure’s The Physiology of Taste should be periodically reread by anyone with a serious regard for food. For that matter, so should all the Fisher books still in print; thanks to the North Point publishing house, a number have been recently reissued. And for the bargain of the end of the century, rush out and buy The Art of Eating, a five-volume-in-one Fisher collection available in Vintage paperback—Not Now But Now— to quote the title of M.F.K. Fisher’s only published novel.