The Gastronomical Me
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The Gastronomical Me

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4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  1,840 ratings  ·  161 reviews
If one imagines M.F.K. Fisher's life as a large colorful painting, it is here, in The Gastronomical Me, that one sees the first lines and sketches upon which that life was based. In what is the most intimate of her five volumes of her "Art of Eating" series, the reader witnesses the beginnings of a writer who, with food as her metaphor, writes of the myriad hungers and sat...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 10th 1989 by North Point Press (first published 1943)
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Jeanette
"The baker had a fight with the chef soon after we left port, and the barber took over all the pastry making..."

Mary Frances had the perfect recipe for blending food writing and autobiography. Inimitable, and such a product of her era. Of all her books, this is the one most suitable for non-foodies. The Sensual Me might have been a better title. Food and drink (LOTS of drink) do get a lot of coverage, but that's only a slice of the book, not the whole pie. Along with the gastronomical, she offer...more
Sonia
Loved this. Thanks to Connie for her Goodreads review, because I would never have picked it up otherwise. Ridiculously good writing about growing up, love, the Second World War, loss, travel, and food, etc. and nice loose approach to memoir. Agree with Connie that some of the early chapters are particularly lovely. On being alone with his daughters for a car trip without their mother, her father "saw us for the first time as two little brown humans who were fun." There's an incredible chapter ab...more
Sarah Keliher
This is the way food writing should be done. In her careful, spare, elegant way, Fisher uses food to write about everything else that means anything in life: love, war, death, and second chances. One of the most beautiful works of modern English.
Mara
Fun reading while fasting.

So what I didn't expect is that she would be so funny, but in that way that people look at me surprised after knowing me for a while, and say, with a slight question in their voices, "You're funny?" And it's not funny for funny's sake, it's part of her enviable self-assurance and the ability to focus on a good meal when the world is going to pieces and her sureness of how things should be ("I discovered, there on the staidly luxurious Dutch liner, that I could be very f...more
Ammie
This is, in theory, a book about food. But a lot of it's not actually about food. There's a lot of talk about A) alcohol, B) Random events in the author's life, and C) traveling on boats. But for all that, I liked most of it fairly well. MFK Fisher wrote about food in the 30's and 40's (at least in this particular book) shamelessly. Apparently, initial readers thought her essays must have been written by a man because the style was so forthcoming. Her writing is, for me, very reminiscent of comf...more
April Ives
Let me begin by saying that I gained at least five pounds over the course of reading this book! I also consumed a few extra bottles of wine and the only thing missing was the extraordinary food that is not usually available on the income of college students. Although I had to settle for cheese and crackers with my wine, MFK Fisher’s collection of essay seated me next to her on this trip back in time.
Fisher’s writing style is charming and quite picturesque. She describes her surroundings with eas...more
Rae Pagliarulo
Jul 26, 2007 Rae Pagliarulo rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who eats too fast.
next time you sit down to eat, shut up and think about what you're doing. think about where the food comes from, and what happened in the world that made it okay for it to be prepared this way, and think about the last time you had anything on the plate, and what THAT day was like, and who was there with you, and how it affected your life, or not...

now imagine living your life that way, humming constantly with the awareness that food is not just necessity, it's history and love and beauty and ju...more
Linda
Aug 18, 2010 Linda rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: roar
My first foray into food lit. Seriously - I hate reading/talking/listening about food. I just like eating food. But then this turned out to not really be a "foodie" (I also hate that word) thing, and so I was actually liking it. But then, sigh. It's really disjointed. Like, basically it seems like you're reading a bunch of blog entries. Which is great for blogs, less so for books. I wanted editorial cohesiveness so badly, and I got none, but she does have some great passages and interesting idea...more
Siri
I really wanted to like this. Had been intrigued by MFK Fisher and was looking forward to finally reading her. But I don't understand what all the fuss is about. While there were parts that I enjoyed, in her descriptions of food and relations with others, most of it I didn't like. And I really didn't like her. In a word, snobby. I realize it was written 70 years ago, but she was really full of herself. And the gaps in storytelling are rather disconcerting. One minute she's madly in love with hus...more
Patty
If the bookmark in my copy of The Art of Eating is any indication, I last read this book around 1985. I had not forgotten Fisher and her writing, but I had jumbled The Gastronomical Me together with the other four books in The Art of Eating. This time round, I am reading this memoir because my book group is discussing it.

Fisher must have been a fascinating friend. She seems to love life, food and friendship. She has a real way with words - her description of eating oysters made me think about my...more
Cleo
"In 1929, a newly married M.F.K. Fisher said goodbye to a milquetoast American culinary upbringing and sailed with her husband to Dijon, where she tasted real French cooking for the first time. The Gastronomical Me is a chronicle of her passionate embrace of a whole new way of eating, drinking, and celebrating the senses. As she recounts memorable meals shared with an assortment of eccentric and fascinating characters, set against a backdrop of mounting pre-war tensions, we witness the formation...more
Susan Tekulve
This unusual and lovely book by legendary food writer, MFK Fisher, was a revelation to me. She recounts the story of her life--her childhood spent in the shadow of a Victorian-era grandmother; her first marriage to an academic; her travels through France during and after the war, and her second marriage-- through the sense of taste. Through her voluptuous descriptions of food, she creates atmospheric descriptions of the places where she ate, and moving portraits of the people with whom she share...more
Andrea Conarro
I don't know how I stumbled upon MFK Fisher, but now that I have, I don't know how I missed her. She is a premier food writer, and a must-read for anyone who loves foodie-type books. This one is about her early food years.
Annie
An odd book. There seemed to be a lot that was interesting going on in the background, rather than the foreground of this memoir.
Melissa
A treat for anyone who sees food more than something just to satiate hunger and who realizes that pivotal life experiences often occur around a shared meal, formal or not. I'll let Ms. Fisher speak for herself when she responds to the question of why she writes about food and hunger rather than wars and love: "There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk." Or, "I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, with my brain and my...more
Courtney Cochran
The Gastronomical Me is easily one of the most profound books I've read. Deeply moving in its portrayal of war in the way of Atonement, but with lots and lots of joie de vivre mixed in for good measure, it's about as real as it gets. And, I should add, balanced: Fisher's book exposes both sides of humanity - the evil and the gracious - and, also in equal amounts, the blessings and curses fate doles out during one's lifetime. She doesn't mince words, doesn't protect you from life's realities, but...more
Erin
To create a truly excellent dish quality ingredients must be used, certainly, but more important are the skilled hand, the discerning palate, and the acquired wisdom of a good cook. M.F.K. Fisher was just such a cook, not only in her various kitchens, but as she stirred and seasoned the events in her life, and most of all perhaps when she served her literary concoctions to the widest range of guests she had ever encountered, the reading public. It is in this spirit that she wrote The Gastronomi...more
meeners
Jun 25, 2011 meeners rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to meeners by: Chelsea Szendi
Shelves: autobiography
there is no greater feeling of bliss than falling in love with a book two pages in. love at first read! SWOON!

edit: it is only too tempting to use food metaphors to describe this book ("to be savored like a _________," "rich and mellow as a ___________ wine") but i am trying to fight the good fight and resist the urge. this memoir was first published in 1943 and contains more than enough unsettling moments of blind privilege, but it is also a testament of clear insight and honesty and an astonis...more
spoko
Really great book. The first few chapters and the last few, especially, were absolutely wonderful. Which is not to say that it drug in the middle—it really didn't. If it had all been as good as those chapters on either end, it would have been a nearly perfect book. Still, I loved it as it was.

The book is a memoir, told almost exclusively through descriptions of food, eating, etc. In case you're not familiar with MFK Fisher, that's the kind of writing she does—it's about food, but it's about so m...more
Lesa
My first MFK Fisher. I have been wanting to read her since 198something, when Julie Burchill, in one of her essays in The Face, mentioned her and how brilliant she was. Some 20-odd years later, I've finally done it. A thoughtful gift for a trip to France. To read this book, a memoir through food, much of it taking place in the Dijon region, while on holiday in France, made my summer eating all the more vivid. The highlights were on detours to Spain and Switzerland, actually. In the Extremadura r...more
Christina
Jan 07, 2008 Christina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: foodies, fans of ruth reichel, ex-patriots in france
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jessica
I love to read food writing: both non-fiction and fiction. I am almost ashamed to admit that I have not read anything by M.F.K. Fisher before now. Many regard her as one of the best food writers.

Fisher's The Gastronomical Me is a collection of autobiographical essays that cover time from 1912 through 1941. In 1929 Fisher got married and sailed with her husband to France were she tasted her first real French food and started down the road to being a true foodie. Fisher talks about her first exper...more
Dorothy
Few readers have heard of M.F.K. Fisher. She’s often been relegated to the nebulous “food writing” category, stuck in some dusty corner with unworthy companions such as Jamie Oliver and Rachel Ray. It’s a crying shame, really. She has a wonderful, witty voice, and The Gastronomical Me is a prime example of her beautiful prose and her uncanny ability to convey raw human emotion in a few simple sentences. Food writing seems incidental to this book, because Fisher spoons it out in very small portio...more
Carol Smith
Great writing, a superb mélange‎ of memoir and food writing. She covers her life in foodie memories from earliest childhood through 1943. I was particularly moved by her accounts of the rising evil in her mostly European environment from the 1930's on. Some of her stories will move you to tears.

That being said, I'm not quite sure I'd like her if I met her in person. She's a product of her times, of course, but she comes off as overly critical of others and a bit too ingrained into the class sys...more
Constance
May 09, 2011 Constance rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Constance by: Sue Shin (goodreads welcomes you anytime with open arms Sue!)
Wonderful book; excellent writing. Best enjoyed slowly and piece by piece (yes, like food). The beginning essays, about being young and discovering food and life and what it all means, are absolutely lovely. 4.5 stars.

Two caveats: Food seems a bit of an afterthought in some of the essays, which was disappointing for a reader (such as myself) who was promised a theme and therefore was always wanting food to take on a Romantic symbolic role and tie everything together. Also, M.F.K.’s writing has a...more
Erin Tuzuner
I added a new shelf for travel, largely because of this collection. MFK Fisher is elegant, poetic, and precise. The entire breadth of experience is captured in these luminous pieces. The lust for life, food, space, identity, are but some of the ways she is an enriching and essential author.
Heidi
MFK Fisher is a food-writing legend that I knew nothing about. I tried starting with one of her other books, "How to Cook a Wolf," but I just couldn't get into it. It's like I had no context to understand it. Now that I know more about her, though, I might give that one another try.

This is a quiet book, tender and little dreamy. The early chapters talk about crossing the ocean to France and Switzerland in ships, an experience so totally foreign to me. Especially since it covers her life in the 1...more
Barbara
There is a strange, almost dreamlike quality to this book. While it is autobiographical, it is nothing as prosaic as a straightforward account of her life. Instead, it is a sequence (in mostly chronological order) of vividly recounted experiences - each one full of meaning (although sometimes what it meant escaped me). The background to each was never explained and it jumps from one to the next with only tenuous connections, just like a dream sequence. The only common theme is (obviously) the de...more
Laura
Because I'm a foodie and a Francophile, I'd tried to read M.F.K. Fisher in the past, but just didn't get her. There was an acerbic pessimism underlying her work that both surprised me and put me off. Then I read Gastronomical Me and all was understood, much forgiven. The first half of this book is her best writing---it's fresh and spare, as if she's both discovering and newly minting the English language as she goes. In the second half, her voice becomes colder and more distant, resigned and wit...more
Tien
I wish Julia Child wrote about food more, aside from the commentary that prefaces her recipes. But, she didn't, so here we have MFK Fisher, and here we have her autobiography. Sauteed shallots are what catapaulted Julia to cookery; for Fisher, it was an oyster. That says a lot. She's a bit rambling, a lot snobbish, and refers to her parents as Father and Mother - not really her fault, she grew up during one of those nasty, upper-class times when you were supposed to do that - but getting to her...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
More about M.F.K. Fisher...
The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition How to Cook a Wolf Consider the Oyster Serve It Forth Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon

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“Like most humans, I am hungry...our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it...” 12 likes
“(We loved Mother too, completely, but we were finding out, as Father was too, that it is good for parents and for children to be alone now and then with one another...the man alone or the woman, to sound new notes in the mysterious music of parenthood and childhood.)

That night I not only saw my Father for the first time as a person. I saw the golden hills and the live oaks as clearly as I have ever seen them since; and I saw the dimples in my little sister's fat hands in a way that still moves me because of that first time; and I saw food as something beautiful to be shared with people instead of as a thrice-daily necessity.”
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