Saturday, December 3, 2005

MFK Fisher - How to Cook a Wolf

I woke up at six this morning, went into the shower as it was still dark outside, and saw dawn already spread across the sky when I came out of the bathroom. Being awake for the transition to day always makes me self-satisfied in some way, surely because it is a pleasure that I allow myself too infrequently, do not allow myself it because of its unpleasurable aspects, mainly getting out of my warm bed and facing this cold world.

Work goes by so much quicker in those morning hours when you are still only half awake and by the time you are finally awake and alert, your workday is pretty much over. I should try to work more morning shifts, or at least the occasional one to enjoy this pleasure, to shake up my routine of rising late.

After work, I don't know what I did. It is just as much a blur as those early hours spent at work. I listened to records and read on my couch and ate some food and played on the internet. I just finished MFK Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf, and parts of it were really amazing. I have always heard stellar things about Fisher's prose. I believe Edmund Wilson called her the best prose writer in America at one point. Now I cannot find this quote that I swear I read blurbed somewhere no matter how much I google it. And so she has been on my list of people to read for a while, and now I want to get my hands on a couple of her other books. Particularly, The Gastronomical Me and Serve it Forth. This particular book I just read was written during the ration periods of WWII and talks about how to still live pleasurably even under tough circumstances, how it is necessary if we are to retain what makes us humans, what distinguishes us from beasts. It is such a pleasure to read some of her sentences praising the act of eating, but also, painful sometimes. Especially reading late at night in bed. This book, these recipes, made me so hungry at such bad times. The problem I also have watching the Food Network. I enjoy it but it makes me long for food I cannot afford, time wise or money wise. Below, some quotes.


Probably the most satisfying soup in the world for people who are hungry, as well as for those who are tired or worried or cross or in debt or in a moderate amount of pain or in love or in robust health or in any kind of business huggermuggery, is minestrone. -38

I suggest that anyone who acknowledges the value of good cookery in a life deliberately full of love, happiness, and health (that is, anyone who cares about human dignity!) read several other books and from them and this one and most of all from himself produce his own decision [as to the best way to cook a recipe]. -124

It is a sinful waste of human thought and energy and deep delight, to teach little children to pretend that they should not care or mention what they eat. How sad for them when they are men! Then they may have to fight, or love, or make other children, and they won't know how to do it fully, with satisfaction, completely, because when they were babies they wanted to say, "Oh, what a fine soup!" and instead only dared murmur, "More, please, Papa." -166

After listing various ways to cover up stinky kitchen smells, she concludes her list, by tartly and hilariously saying this:
And if you are somebody I do not know and furthermore do not care if I ever meet, you can burn a little cone of incense.

Or you can broil the meat, fry the onions, stew the garlic in the red wine ... and ask me to supper. I'll not care, really, even if your nose is a little shiny, so long as you are self-possessed and sure that wolf or no wolf, your mind is your own and your heart is another's and therefore in the right place. -173

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