How to Cook a Wolf
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How to Cook a Wolf

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,226 ratings  ·  127 reviews
M.F.K. Fisher's guide to living happily even in trying times, which was first published during the Second World War in the days of ration cards; includes more than seventy recipes based on food staples and features sections such as "How to Keep Alive" and "How to Comfort Sorrow.".
Paperback, 202 pages
Published October 1st 1988 by North Point Press (first published 1942)
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Part cookbook, part Hints from Heloise, How to Cook a Wolf is M.F.K. Fisher's chatty, scatterbrained wartime guide for citizens hampered by food shortages or just lack of discretionary income generally. There's no actual wolf-cooking, which disappointed me: the wolf is just a metaphor for hunger. Some of her tips are a little bizarre:

Hayboxes are very simple...bring whatever food you want to a sturdy boil, put it tightly covered on a layer of hay in the inside box, pack hay all around it, and co
Jennifer Cooper
I wish I could have been friends with MFK Fisher. This book is full of her strong opinions, down-to-earth suggestions, and fantastic dry wit. Good stuff.

The book was originally written as a practical how-to for people who had to cook during the shortages and food-rationing of World War II. This edition was updated after the war, in 1951. Now, you may think that sounds like the set-up for a particularly grim book, but you'd be wrong. She is generally undaunted by the limitations that war-time coo...more
Heather Baird
I am new to Fisher's writing, and instantly a fan. It's lively, biting and intelligent. Several times throughout the book I'd lose myself inside a single sentence of her prose. I wasn't expecting so much beauty and wit inside a wartime ration cookbook.

"Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken".

"One way to horrify at least eight out of ten Anglo-Saxons is to suggest their eating anything but the actual red fibrous meat of a beast."

So much of this book...more
I found this at my favorite used book store and it has a permanent spot on my kitchen shelf up at the cabin. This is a reprint of the 1951 edition, which was created by the author adding marginal annotations to the 1942 original. That only makes it better to my mind. Many of these notes are along the lines of "What the heck was I thinking?" and I can almost imagine a wry grin inserted here or there. She's also added in tips what to do once the war rationing is over...I can't find the exact passa...more
MFK Fisher's book seems uncannily appropriate to my days of unemployed living in America. She was writing about the scarcity of war-time America, but we've become so accustomed to our country's overextended reach into military engagements abroad that war is not what comes to mind first as the cause for the wolf's snuffing at the door. Rather, we bat the word "recession" around freely, and though it lacks the humility of the word "poverty," it lacks also the pride of Fisher's war effort. We've be...more
Abby Hagler
How to Cook a Wolf is interesting because I know that my mother was a bad cook. Thus, when I learned to cook, I also learned to be a bad cook. Fisher's book is full of tips and tricks for saving money by budgeting, having a simple grocery list, and cooking in quantities that conserve on heat expenses, as well. From this frugality comes a kind of happiness. We rediscovered this in the slow food movement. Currently, all the hip young people are trying to get away from the processed, the ready-to-e...more
MFK writes perhaps the best prose I've ever read. It doesn't hurt that she writes almost exclusively about food, one of my -- and anyone else who has the faintest conception of true human dignity and joy -- favorite subjects.

Nor does it hurt that she used the term "rich-bitches" perfectly in print in 1963 to describe the menacing and mundane upperclass: "One of the saving graces of the less-monied people of the world has always been, theoretically, that they were forced to eat more unadulterated...more
Have you ever seen the movie The Philadelphia Story? If Katherine Hepburn's character were to dictate a war-time cookbook it would be How to Cook a Wolf. I enjoyed the observations on cooking, and the recipes from another time (though "Aunt Gwen's Cold Shape" sounds quite unappetizing) but most of all I LOVED this book for the author's wit. Fisher is the epitome of a classy dame, who writes things like "one of the stupidest things in an earnest but stupid school of culinary thought is that each...more
I'd loved to have dined with M.F.K. Fisher; I can't (nor would want to) argue with her point that "since we must eat to live, we might as well do it with both grace and gusto." I'd regard her as a reader's food writer considering her writing is peppered with references to Cervantes, Omar Khayyam, etc. Completely charmed.
Favorite passage:
(On dessert) "Probably one of the best ends to a supper is nothing at all. If the food has been simple, plentiful, and well prepared; if there has been time to...more
Chris Lake
Excellent book. Originally written during the second world war, it is on the surface a book explaining how to cook and live well in the midst of rationing and scarcity. In reality, this book explains how to love food and love life, in good or bad times. Fisher's voice is excellent and enjoyable. In particular, this edition was reedited by her and she has included later commentary on her own writing. Many of this added pieces are excellent and very funny. This is a great book from a fantastic ess...more
Published during the rationing and black-out days of WWII in England, and updated [to me, unnecessarily] in the early 1950s, by one of the 20th century's foremost authors of cookery and food criticism. I loved this book when I first read it in the 1960s, and when I read it a second time a few decades later, and now for the third time this past week.

Folks of my economic class would welcome cooking advice from an expert who is nutritionally attuned but not devoted to any of the "isms" and who tell...more
Dec 15, 2010 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
What a funny little book you are! Fisher wasn't satisfied with the original text, and in the 1954 edition she includes all kinds of bracketed commentary, which make for an unusually aware reading experience.

Nonetheless, it includes many a tasty recipe and abundant simple, economical advice. Some of it seems dated, others not. It's always good to have additional weapons to fend off the wolf.
originally written to help folks stretch their money and choices for food/cooking during wwii, but updated in 1951 (korean and cold war, usa just cannot go on without wars right?) fisher is both smart and downtoearth in her funny stories and recipes keeping the wolf from the door. her short answer to the wolf is it better watch out or she'll cook it too.
Debbie Balzotti
This little gem is not for every reader. I enjoyed her passionate opinions on food and how it is an important part of living life to the fullest. The recipes from the 1940's will probably not make it onto my table however! the full review is on my blog at
Margaret McCamant
I've read this before, but apparently long enough ago that I bought a new copy! Enjoyed it again, but I'm not sure about the revisions in this updated version. I understand that every writer would love the chance to fix the prose 10 years after it was originally written, but while some of the bracketed comments were about changes since the extreme hardship of wartime rationing and shortages, many were of this ilk: "I still believe this, if not more with added age and experience." Not so interest...more
Leah W
Oct 20, 2009 Leah W rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who want Pollan self-congrats, with the autobio flourishes of Ruth Reichl
I'll write more later. I really loved this book, which is on one level a book about how to survive happily during wartime (it was written in 1942), but is also just a terrific piece of food writing.
Summer Rae Garcia
Aug 24, 2007 Summer Rae Garcia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nostalgia-junkies
Shelves: food, memoirs
How to make a blackout fabulous with sherry and shrimp pate.
This book is amazing. Beyond tighten your belt recipes, Fisher addresses the psychology of food and dignity through times of war. There's always so much more to food than the food. In my mind what we eat is intimately associated with our politics, our beliefs, our sense of self and our do you keep your temple when the wolf is at the door? You make like the little pigs and serve wolf stew.

"Nonetheless, if you have the time and fuel, make a stew for your soul's sake."

"Use as many fresh...more
M.F.K Fisher is widely acknowledged as the grand-dame of food writing, and this is perhaps her most famous "essay". Published in 1942 and further edited again by the author 10 years later (later comments are noted in brackets), the book uses a wolf as a representation of hunger, something many Americans experienced during this time due to war shortages.

In each chapter, Fisher counsels readers how to escape hunger through economizing one's kitchen, using everything from inexpensive cuts of meats...more
Feb 09, 2009 B added it
This book was highly enjoyable. It is, in essence, a cookbook written in the forties during WWII - except, it has not very many recipes in it. Mostly the author talks, very charmingly and entertainingly, about the kitchen and economy and cooking well and her own experiences. She is no pampered Martha Stewart; here is a woman who is practical and down-to-earth and who also happens to enjoy a tastily-prepared meal, and doesn't believe that you must always sacrifice a lot of time, ingredients, or m...more
Tina Culbertson
I was fortunate enough to grow up during peaceful times, at least in my part of the country in the time frame when this book was written. I have never known a life where wartime shortages caused me to think in terms of cutting back and cutting corners due to lean times rather than being just plain ol’ broke. M.F.K. Fisher wrote this brilliant narrative to inspire those daunted by their meager supplies but it’s continued to be a good read in present times.

How to Cook a Wolf lets the reader dream...more
May 19, 2009 Meg rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Meg by: Springville Library Book Club
I never thought I would read a cookbook for recreational purposes, but... Wow--this book blew my mind to pieces. Then why only 3 stars? Well, because it is still--in its essence--a cookbook, though we read it for very different reasons nowadays (although I was tempted to try one recipe just so I could say I'd made "Eggs in Hell"--our grandparents certainly did). However, if you skim through the actual "cooking" sections as I did, it's no less than a 5-star portrait of life during WWII rationing....more
The way in which a reader responds to a book is dependent on several factors, not the least of which is the mood of the reader. This book is beautifully written and has many interesting historically based tips and tricks. The trouble is, I just wasn't in the mood to read a book about kitchen wisdom and therefore could perhaps not fully appreciate the true genius of the writing. Hence the three stars. Maybe on another read I'll feel differently.
Initially I was thrilled to read this book because of the Seattle restaurant that bears the name. Apparently, it is the favorite book of the owner's wife. A great restauranteur recommends a foodie book sounds good. My book club picked it last year as our December selection, and met at the restaurant to discuss it. While the evening was divine, I wasn't engaged enough to finish the book before our meeting, and try as I might, I couldn't bring myself to finish. It still sits on my bookshelf waitin...more
The more I cook, the more I find myself giving recipe instructions like "Put it in the oven, stir once in awhile, and take it out when it smells done" -- and the more I look for cookbooks like this one. I've grown confident enough in my skills and tastes that unless I'm baking (which is more of a chemistry experiment than cooking), I can't handle fussy, meticulous recipes. I want ideas, not someone else's OCD, to-the-letter instructions.

The book assumes a pretty solid level of skill and experien...more
This wonderful piece of writing was Miss Fisher's homage to the crisis, of World War 2. The wolf is her metaphor for the tragedy in Europe she saw unfolding, and the proverbial 'wolf at the door' of hunger that rationing created. She is both vigorous in her defense of the need to challenge Hitler and in support of the women at home who were dealing with severe shortages of sugar, meat, oil, eggs and fruit while, at the same time finding the humor in the situation. Written during the war, she ral...more
Fisher is a delightful prose stylist, and her advice for surviving in the midst of a wartime crunch on supplies resonates in a contemporary ecologically-minded, waste-averse context. Plus, the recipes are a blast, and she's very witty. I love her bracketed asides, commenting in the 1950s on the original text of the 1942 edition. Fisher is not just telling readers how to skimp and save--also how to mix cocktails, fantasize about luxurious cooking no longer within their means, and to feed pets che...more
How to Cook a Wolf" is a series of essays first published in 1942, during wartime, when money was tight and ingredients often rationed or scarce. Fisher's book offer up witty and insightful tips for making the most out of what was available, while still enjoying the pleasures of a good meal. There are all manner of recipes woven in Fisher's advice and storytelling in chapters like How Not to Boil an Egg, How to Keep Alive, How to Make a Great Show, and How to Comfort Sorrow. At times funny, at t...more
Wonderful little book about cooking under wartime shortages. Not really recipe-focused, more so writing about eating—preparing meals economically without giving up the joy of food, and all that.
(Confession time: I skipped over the recipes themselves. Whoopsies.)

Although I don't care what Fisher has to say in part III of "How to Carve the Wolf." I'm not exactly running out the door to go eat anything other than the red fibrous meat of an animal. My loss.
MFK Fisher is delightful and I must have more of her. This isn't really a cookbook, though it is full of recipes and instructions for cooking. The wolf in the title, in case you're curious, doesn't actually appear in any one recipe, but rather all of them - he's "the wolf at the door", and this was written during wartime rationing.
It was also republished about ten years later, which makes it even better because the author comments on and argues with herself in brackets throughout the text. Wonde...more
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Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher was a prolific and well-respected writer, writing more than 20 books during her lifetime and also publishing two volumes of journals and correspondence shortly before her death in 1992. Her first book, Serve it Forth, was published in 1937. Her books deal primarily with food, considering it from many aspects: preparation, natural history, culture, and philosophy. Fisher...more
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“I cannot count the good people I know who, to my mind, would be even better if they bent their spirits to the study of their own hungers.” 12 likes
“All men are hungry. They always have been. They must eat, and when they deny themselves the pleasures of carrying out that need, they are cutting off part of their possible fullness, their natural realization of life, whether they are poor or rich.” 11 likes
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