Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Gastronomical Me, M.F.K. Fisher

The Gastronomical Me
The first thing I remember tasting and then wanting to taste again is the grayish-pink fuzz my grandmother skimmed from a spitting kettle of strawberry jam. I suppose I was about four.

"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 not only of her taste but of her character and her prodigious talent."

I'm still not sure what I think of this book; it's so strange and the mood quite puzzling. I enjoyed the writing, I suppose, but I'm still unclear as to what the goal of the book was. There aren't any specific recipes, so it's basically just a chronicle of Fisher's gastronomic adventures, starting from her early childhood and eventually moving on to France (Djon).

I picked up The Gastronomical Me while browsing; I love food and reading mouthwatering food descriptions, and I had also heard the book described as being brilliant and about so much more than food. 

The Gastronomical Me is a puzzling book. I liked certain aspects of it, but others just confused me. It's just so odd, and all those "pre-war tensions" didn't make much sense to me. I guess Fisher just assumes that the reader knows what her situation is; for example, she and her second husband (?) are living in this idyllic location, and these people come to visit her, people who she presumably doesn't know. Yet Fisher doesn't say anywhere that she's running a boarding house or something like that. I guess my complaints about this book don't make much sense either; it just...bothered me in certain parts. In fact, I'm not even sure that "Chexbres" was her second husband; in the first part of the book, she's living in Djon with her husband Al; then she recounts a voyage with the man she's falling in love with, and then suddenly Al is completely out of the picture and she's living with Chexbres. Poor Al. I certainly don't mind making inferences, but the gaps in her narration were just too much. I suppose the focus was on the food, but also on the people she eats it with, and if you're going to write a memoir, you should be fairly clear. This wasn't.

I actually put aside this book and started reading The Patron Saint of Liars; I wasn't quite ready to give up on it altogether, but I definitely needed a break.

It's quirky, to be sure, but I didn't end up finishing this book, which is populated by eccentric characters, memoir-style narration, and descriptions of food. It all sounds very good, but the execution was just not to my taste (see what I did there?)

272 pages.


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