M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating

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We start the list with The Art of Eating, a sampling of collected works by M.F.K. Fisher. The book includes Serve It Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me and An Alphabet for Gourmets. Generally considered one of the best food writers of all time, Fisher combines the wry wit and observation of Dorothy Parker with the lyricism of poetry. As a writer, I revere Fisher’s nimble use of active verbs and elegant economy of words. As a reader, I luxuriate in her descriptions.

How To Cook A Wolf may be among Fisher’s best-known works and for good reason. The catchy title was followed by a common-sense, yet clever approach to dealing with the issue of want in the lean times of the World War II, a way to evade the specter of hunger in the form of a wolf at the door. The essays include such whimsically titled selections such as “How to Stay Alive,” and in another chapter, a spirited discourse that focuses on the importance of toast. Several recipes begin with a version of the following: “Melt good fat in a heavy skillet and add chopped onion and a bit of flour…” It’s difficult to argue with such advice, no matter the situation.

In my next book, I cite her essay “Pity the Blind In Palate,” which generally bemoans the state of American cuisine and the general population careless interest in it – circa 1937. When I pick a passage at random, it makes me long to develop into a better writer.

Why It’s Imporant: It’s hard to beat M.F.K. Fisher when it comes to modern food writing. I teach the subect and invariably I refer to this volume as one of the first must-reads for aspiring culinary writers. For all readers, this book prompts a curious hungry. Just what does tomato soup cake taste like, anyway?


About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. I love this tome.

    Would you really call M.F.K. Fisher a “modern” food writer, though. I mean, sure, in terms of literature as a whole, she’s in the modern era. But food writing is relatively new and I’d consider her a pioneer.

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