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The Art of Eating

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  5,771 ratings  ·  274 reviews
This book is the essence of M.F.K. Fisher, whose wit and fulsome opinions on food and those who produce it, comment upon it, and consume it are as apt today as they were several decades ago, when she composed them. Why did she choose food and hunger she was asked, and she replied, 'When I write about hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth, ...more
Paperback, 50th Anniversary Edition, 749 pages
Published February 20th 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1954)
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Don Mueller She wasn't really. Born in Albion, Michigan, a small town. Migrated to California with her family. Her father was a newspaper publisher. Pretty sure N…moreShe wasn't really. Born in Albion, Michigan, a small town. Migrated to California with her family. Her father was a newspaper publisher. Pretty sure Nixons were unknown to them.(less)
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Rosminah
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is my all time favorite book, I cannot live without it. I keep a copy at my bedside and take another copy travelling with me. I reread it constantly and reference it in conversation.
It is about life and food. How does that not relate to every single person in the world.
I first read this collection after returning from living several months in Borneo, where I finally built up the motivation to change my career path and continue my schooling overseas in England. Back home, I found the book on
...more
Spoon
May 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
even if you're not a foodie, this is a really wonderfull book. no one writes about food like MFK Fisher and no one writes about food better than MFK Fisher. it brings tears to my eyes. i mean, fuck Anthony Bourdin and Kitchen Confidential (even though i enjoyed it) because MFK was writing about offal and wolves long before Anthony Bourdin decided to start wearing Dead Boys tee shirts and taping television shows where he tries absinthe. ...more
Carrie
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
MFK Fisher is just so great - I'm humbled by the rightness of her writing and it sounds utterly corny to say that this is a book about love, life, and dignity. There is so much here - I read the Roman and Edwardian shopping lists of "Serve it Forth" to Jeff on our last road trip and we laughed like crazy, followed by her tips on how to keep your cat and dog fed when the chips are down. The quiet, powerful protest of the center book, "How to Cook a Wolf", was so touching to me - how to remain hum ...more
Rachel
Aug 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: set-aside
If this book weren't a thousand pages thick (and consequently a little unwieldy on the pillow) it would be, hands down, my favorite-ever bedtime reading book. It's like curling up with your best friend - if your best friend were a snarky, sanguine, misanthropic but entirely passionate middle-aged foodie. Food writing has been seriously in vogue since Michael Pollan, but with the recent influx of it that's surfaced around Nora Ephron's impossibly self-satisfied new movie, you can't even open a ma ...more
Zack
Oct 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is comprised of essays largely un-connected to each other. This allows the book to spend a year on a table near where you often sit, so that every week or so you can pick it up and follow Ms. Fisher to France, or California, or out to sea. Ostensibly, she writes about food. But she does so in such a way that you learn what she's been learning--by sharing in her series of insights into herself, and relationships then humanity at large.

Also, this book will light a fire under your relati
...more
Sarah
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, food, bio-memoir
Finished Serve It Forth and putting aside for now. Fisher's writing is best when she's personal, and even the tactile squalor of a kitchen is sexy in her hands.

Favorite passage:

There are only three things I need, to make my kitchen a pleasant one as long as it is clean.

First, I need space enough to get a good simple meal for six people. More of either would be wasteful as well as dangerously dull.

Then, I need a window or two, for clear air and a sight of things growing.

Most of all, I need to
...more
Tracy
Jul 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
I found this book to be 90% insufferable, 10% wonderful and unlike anything else I've ever read. This book is kind of old, so a lot of the insufferable-ness is just how old fashioned the writing style is. But a lot of the author's attitudes were also pretty obnoxious - her description of nuoc mam was downright racist. While I'm sure her palette is a million times more sophisticated than mine, there are some things that she doesn't appreciate which are perfectly delicious. This book is a compilat ...more
Emily Bonden
Feb 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Listen to this and tell me you don't want to read these essays: "People ask me: Why do you write about food, adn eating and drinking? ...The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that 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 other." ...more
Carol
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
After finishing the book, I have to say that the reason for the middling rating is...it's me, MFK, not you.

While nearing the end of "Z is for" , it hit me like a ton of bricks - I finally understood that I am not the intended reader. I am not a foodie. I eat to live, not live to eat. Sure, I enjoy food, but not to the extent that I need to to 'get' this book - I don't have the interest/passion. Why didn't it occur to me earlier? If I was obsessed, this may have been a bible for me, but I'm not.

B
...more
Renee
Aug 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Five books is a lot of pages in which to deal with her tone. She has a lot to say, but she's overly fond of her two Frenchmen (Brillat-Savarin & Escoffier) and substantially more impressed with herself than is seemly. Also, based on her recipes, it would seem that she likes food to be approximately 20% butter at all times.

I know that she speaks to her moment, and I am fine with the occasionally anachronistic nature of her prose (such as the love affair with butter and the way she unproblematical
...more
Bob
May 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Having known for years I should not be putting off reading M.F.K. Fisher on the grounds that being a "food writer" was somehow intellectually provincial, I probably nonetheless did just that.
There is also probably no great insight to be gained from putting her in the context of what I have been reading lately, but I have been particularly enjoying the contrast between her unabashedly (and joyously) literary style and the coolly persuasive journalistic élan of Michael Pollan or Marion Nestle's s
...more
Mari Manning
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Maybe at one time this book resonated, but most of it is very dated. The recipes are from WWII and the experiences are well-described, but seem like something out of a 1950s musical. The essays hop around, so with no narrative to keep the reader engaged, it reminds me of reading random articles on microfiche from old magazines.
Olivia
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
MFK Fisher is always such a pleasure! Her writing is frank, surprising and full of life. I had read The Gastronomical Me before, but got a kick out of Serve It Forth and the Alphabet for Gourmets. Can't even imagine what it would have been like to attend one of her dinner parties! ...more
Mary
Nov 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I originally wanted to read this book--or rather, one of the books in this omnibus volume, How to Cook a Wolf--back in April, when food shortages were at their height. But the library was still closed then, and I finally had a chance to read this now, when food shortages are likely just around the corner again. Fisher's wit, good humor, and sparkling prose are cheering. And I'm glad that this current world crisis doesn't involve Atwood-esque food substitutes like the NuEg (or something like that ...more
Polly
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've mulled over what to say about this book almost since the moment I picked it up. There were sections that captivated and intrigued me, and there were sections I had to shoulder my way through. MFK Fisher's writing about food is beautiful and clever, even if some of the jokes were dated and the hints lost on someone born 30 years after the last book was published.

Originally I intended this book to check an item off a reading challenge, but as the 6 months I spent meandering through it progre
...more
Miriam
Aug 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
There are some things to like a lot in this collection. First, I learned to make eggs perfectly how I like them from this book--melt butter over a medium heat, add the eggs, cover, turn off the heat, and wait three minutes. Genius. Second, the idea to appreciate simple pleasures--specific tastes, a nice warm afternoon with people you love, eating and drinking whatever you come upon in another place and doing as the Romans do. Third, the idea that a meal should have a note of whimsy or surprise. ...more
Debra
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodie-reads
I had purchased Fisher’s The Art of Eating a few years ago when I realized I could not be a quintessential foodie without having read her works. I was excited for another opportunity to delve into her delicious wit and revisit "How to Cook a Wolf." This book of frugality (and common sense) during the lean years of WWII is pertinent today and many of her tips and ideas are echoed by locavores and modern chefs.

Her wry sense of humor, and dare I say snarkiness, is endearing and I started thinking a
...more
Robert
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
There are five books contained in M.F.K. Fisher's voluminous omnibus The Art of Eating, covering a wide swath of her writing (and eating) in the first half of the 20th Century. There is autobiography, gastronomy, history, even strategies for eating well during wartime rationing -- a vast feast of thoughts on cuisine and the enjoyment thereof.

That avalanche of rich commentary threatens to overwhelm the reader's senses at times -- breaks are recommended between books, perhaps within each book as w
...more
John Weiler
Mar 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Utterly Pretentious Tome

Part cookbook; part romance novel; mainly trash.

A compendium of 5 books: the first is a nice read; the fourth is tolerable. The rest is a disconnected spewing of everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. The two decent books don't even come close to making up for the agony of enduring the other three.

The author is totally full of herself. She forgets the people who have to consume the drivel she produces. Overly preoccupied with Lucullus, Ms. Fisher wastes more time
...more
Laurie
Nov 21, 2011 rated it liked it
M.F.K. Fisher is a skilled writer, but the tone of her writing seems a little alien to today's point of view on nutrition and cooking. She is greatly influenced by French cuisine and epicurianism, but seems at times to slide into something verging on gluttony. It would be a mistake to view her with the eyes of today, but one cannot avoid feeling a vague malaise at the descriptions of tumblers of marc and ice-cold martinis. Nonetheless, since Fisher maintained a glamorous appearance, an active lo ...more
Lori-ann
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The real creator of the genre, MFK Fisher describes each dish, meal, shopping experience, etc. with just enough flourish to make your mouth water. Her writing is economical, but rich in style and vocabulary. There are a lot of essays, and I've taken my time reading them between and during other reads. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in food in general, or even just great writing. This is definitely great for foodies, but will be interesting and enjoyable for so many others. ...more
Donna
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The grand dame of food writing. In Gastronomical Me, you get to meet the young Mary Frances Kennedy and learn about her childhood and her first culinary awakenings. In Serve it Forth, you learn of the history of eating from ancient times to the present, interspersed with the author's own revelations. A celebration of life, if ever there was one. Also contains Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, and An Alphabet of Gourmets. Warm, witty, and delightful. ...more
Nicole
Nov 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cookbooks, foodie
the writing was wonderful and overall I enjoyed this. however about page 500 it did start to feel like a slog to the end. It took me months to get through this. My friend who loaned me the book did say that it is a compilation of MFK Fisher's other books so my recommendation is to read each book individually - I felt captive when all I wanted was to read something different but wasn't going to put this down until I finished it...I didn't want it to turn into 1+ years to get through a book. ...more
Barbara O'Neal
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: foodies, memoir readers
Shelves: memoir, foodie-books
I only stumbled over this volume by happenstance, and cannot believe I have not read her before. This contains several volumes of her work, and I peeled through all of them, one after the other, in a haze of delight. She is funny and wise and clear-sighted, full of insights about a world that has now fled.

Every foodie should read this.
Rebecca
Apr 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
I tried to like this book, really I did.

Why is it touted about as such a great book? I found it boring and nearly incomprehensible. I read several chapters from Serve it Forth, gave up, skipped to Gastronomical Me, gave up, skipped to the Gourmet Alphabet and decided it was just not for me.

Maybe if I could have gone to France and ate 50 snails...
Julie Davis
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
M.F.K. Fisher was one of the best writers of her time. It is just my good luck that she wrote about food which is one of my favorite topics to read about. Her quick wit, powers of observation, common sense, and wonderful prose make any of her books worthwhile. This collection is simply delightful and belongs on any food lover's shelf. ...more
Sheryl
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A compendium of several of her books and essays. MFK Fisher's writing rises far beyond her subject. Yes she writes about food, but food is life so she is writing about life. By the middle of this book, I feel as if she is whispering in my ear. She had a unique literay voice. ...more
First Second Books
This book is lovely.

M.F.K. Fisher writes about food and eating in such a wonderful, approachable, delighted way -- it's great to read food writing written by someone whose first tenant so clearly is: I LOVE FOOD.
...more
Marjorie Elwood
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
A compendium of Fisher's writings, this book - with its eloquent language and many a digression - is less about the recipes than the accompanying musings. Her tales of living in France make me want to spend more time there and her A to Z: An alphabet for gourmets are little gems of writing. ...more
Chris
Nov 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, food, memoir
FABULOUS. I could read her prose forever. It's also interesting to see how much food hasn't changed, if you ignore the industrial pap category. ...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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“It seems to me that 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, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.” 141 likes
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