Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Again, Remembering M. F. K. Fisher

As today would have been the birthday of M. F. K. Fisher, I thought I would tell fellow fans about my most recent purchase of a book about her.

When I walked into a book booth at a huge antique mall in Nashville, this is the first book my eyes landed on. I pulled it out and discovered it was about my favorite food writer. 

Jeanette Ferrary had the privilege for twelve years of visiting Mary Frances in her home that she named Last House, sharing many simple yet marvelous meals prepared by her. 

Ferrary writes:

It wasn't the foods Mary Frances served that made an event of practically everything she did; it was her sense of ceremony, the moments before eating
anything, watching her rub the chicken. It was the first sizzle, the surprise of sun-yellow cornbread in a black iron skillet, the way the room filled with smells of sweet onions caramelizing. It was symphonic.
Jeannette Ferrary
Between Friends: 
M. F. K. Fisher and Me

[One Fourth of July decoration I still put out each year is the small oil painting of American flags I did many decades ago, inspired by Childe Hassam's wonderful paintings of Old Glory.]

I will confess right here that my cooking in the kitchen is not symphonic, never was, never will be. I am an awkward cook when anyone else is in the kitchen with me, uncertain even when alone, reading directions over and over. While I love to cook, my gift is not to inspire others with my cooking unlike  M. F. K. Fisher's gift that was exactly that.
She has inspired me over and over. I won't be making her recipe for this Gazpacho Salad for the Fourth tomorrow but I made it often last summer and will make it many times during the hot summer days ahead. It's that good, with all it's fresh chopped garden vegetables in it.

 What will RH and I have for this year's Fourth of July? 

My favorite 4th dinner is an old New England one that I began to copy after reading Frances Parkinson Keyes's old book Also the Hills: salmon, tiny new potatoes and fresh green peas. In years past when we had salmon for the Fourth we also had some kind of grilled ribs, smoked chicken, etc. for the meat lovers in the family. 

Here's a photo of me from my old recipe scrapbook where I served a whole Alaskan salmon, marinated in wine and herbs, cooked on RH's smoker, bones carefully removed by me. I remember wanting to preserve my creation but back in the early 1990s when this was taken I never dreamed I would one day be publishing pictures of food I made on the world wide web. 

Did you? Do you wish you had photographed all those magnificent meals pre-blog days? I do.

 We don't make a big grilled meal anymore to go with salmon for the Fourth. It's been years now since we had big family gatherings at Valley View. We're past doing it now and Home Hill's kitchen too small; children are grown and have their own 4th plans.

And that's okay. 

We probably won't even have our dinner in our outside dining room. Far too hot.

 But I will pick some of those hydrangea beauties for our table inside, and I'll cook a beautiful Copper River salmon for our dinner with a lemon caper herb sauce.

And maybe, just maybe, there will be a few other people joining us here for it. 

All this to say that RH and I are going to have some special company for the 4th weekend! I'll be getting ready for them to come and enjoying them while they're here and will be visiting my blog friends when company goes home, when I'll be resting Sunday, toes up.

I'll look forward to seeing what everyone who celebrates this special holiday cooked and decorated. The Fourth of July never fails to thrill me, the decor, the music, and I'm A Yankee Doodle Dandy on television and the Capitol Fourth on PBS and Boston Pops playing the 1884 Overture if I can find it. The last few years I haven't been able to. Anyone out there know what channel it's aired on? Surely not only local Boston stations now.

 I love it all but especially the food!

I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brains and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.

A quote from M. F. K. Fisher in
Between Friends: 
M. F. K. Fisher and Me
by Jeannete Ferrary

What are you eating for the Fourth if you celebrate it?

Do you go to a parade? Decorate like crazy? Watch Yankee Doodle Dandy? Every single year?

Happy Fourth of July -- and Happy Canada Day! 

[7/12/19: After a text from my sister asking for my salmon recipe, I'm linking here to it. ]





  1. When I read your post title I thought that the name of the author was very familiar. I don't think I have any of her cookbooks, so perhaps I read something about her somewhere else. I love the cover of this book and your painting is really good!

    We've been having 4th of July parties at the lake for the past six or seven years, just about the time our children became adults and wanted more family time rather than "friends" time". For a long time, it seems, my husband and I were alone, watching the fireworks show in our boat on the lake. Not a bad thing at all. I know you and RH enjoy each other's company so there you have the fireworks! ;-D

    Your salmon dish looks very good. We traditionally have a big breakfast, snacks and such in the afternoon, then dinner, simple burgers and homemade potato salad around 7:00 p.m. Then later we head out onto the lake for a spectacular show.

    I don't really worry about my recipes or people in the kitchen.. I try new salads and appetizers every year and my only issue is that I'm in the kitchen a lot while other are outdoors having fun!!! But it's so worth it.

    Have a wonderful 4th, my friend. :-D

    Jane x

    1. Jane, your family Fourths at your lake house always sound like the best kind of July 4th celebrations. And you can't beat burgers and potato salad. And potato salad is one dish that is even better made the day before serving so that's got to be a help. I love potato salad, believe it should be one of the major food groups!

  2. I didn't know this book about MFK Fisher existed! I just looked it up on amazon and there's only one review and it's interesting. The person said that MFK Fisher wasn't always kind but that the author (Jeannette) kept taking it. Hmm, I wonder what that was all about? I think I will order this book - now I'm intrigued!

    You sound like my mom with other people in her kitchen. She never did like that either, especially since the houses we lived in had very small kitchens. She would get nervous and couldn't concentrate on what she was cooking. I'd rather cook alone in the kitchen, too though I (mostly) don't mind when Brian's in there with me. Sometimes I will have him help me by fetching ingredients out of the fridge or grabbing a bowl or cutting board, etc.

    We don't do anything special to celebrate the Fourth of July. But we will be meeting up with Brian's sisters at a restaurant for lunch.

    Have a wonderful and blessed holiday, Dewena!

    1. Yes, to be honest, she was a blunt woman and I think she must have enjoyed the response she got from people. And probably by that time of her life her illnesses played a part in it too and also caused people to be more forgiving of tactless moments. She was a humdinger of a food writer though, wasn't she? I remember that you collect Fisher books too!

  3. I love the first excerpt about your beloved author, M.F.K. Fisher and the atmosphere she was known to create during her meal prep - symphonic, huh? Wow!

    Dewena, I've read about your own passion for cooking, and like the gorgeous salmon featured in this post, I've seen so many of your other dishes, both savoury and sweet, and although you wouldn't dare declare your own creations to be symphonic, I'm sure those who have enjoyed them, do!

    Happy 4th of July celebrations, both of the food and fireworks kind!


    1. I completely picture you as being symphonic in the kitchen, Poppy! Lyrical and melodic and dancing while you cook. And I think you could give MFK Fisher a run for the money in writing about all things creative, of which food is one of the most creative, right? Turn that poetical soul upon the subject more often, my favorite Greek poet!

  4. dearest Dewena
    I'm off my digital retreat. we're under a "heat dome" as they call it. those of us living in it call it unbearably hot and humid! the brave souls down in the aqua blue pool are splashing and loving it. I can only hope they're all using sunscreen!
    this line made me want to eat... "lemon caper herb sauce." oh my goodness.
    my own best memory of the 4th was a picnic on the grassy shore of the St Lawrence Seaway... watching the fireworks filling the sky like you only see in movies usually.
    the air was heavenly cool off the water and people were sitting on their own blankets eating and laughing … and the water was full of small boats also with picnics. it was all rather magical … like one might read in a novel.
    I too watch the Capitol 4th. they usually do the 1884 Overture. this year I missed it. I hope you've enjoyed every wonderful minute of your little Princesses there on this fourth! sending you love. xo

    1. My Fourth was absolutely made by having the Princesses here, Tam! And we watched some of Wizard of Oz before bedtime. Sadly, the sky was so cloudy that they could only hear fireworks outside that night, not see them. Your St. Lawrence Seaway fireworks show sounds wonderful, the boats bobbing about on the water would have made it perfect.

      I hope your heat dome has blown away by now, Tammy! Stay inside in the cool, please.

  5. What a wonderful book!! I too am awkward in the kitchen, so I "feel your pain"! I reread directions over and over and my works from the cooktop and oven would never inspire anyone to do anything...well, maybe walk out...LOL I hope you and your family had a wonderful 4th! Love and hugs sweet friend!

    1. I'm so glad someone relates to my kitchen clumsiness, Benita! We did have a great Fourth, Benita and I hope you and Edward did too!

  6. I have only read two M.F.K. Fisher books but I found that they transported me to a different world. She uses language to feed the senses. Although I am venturesome, my husband is a picky eater so I am unlikely to be creative in the kitchen. You inspired me to look up recipes for gazpacho salad. I love salmon cooked in a any way or uncooked in sashimi. Now that Canada Day and the Fourth are over, we pass into July. It sounds as though it's very hot in your neck of the woods, We've just had a bit of much needed rain.

    1. She loved France with a passion and I know you do also. "Language to feed the senses" I love that. We went back for our second batch of Copper River salmon this week and had the leftovers for supper and breakfast and lunch the next day. Must enjoy it while it lasts and then will switch to Sockeye.

  7. Enjoyed reading your post and I really took notice when i saw you said lemon caper herb sauce...oh it.

    1. It is a superb sauce and I just got a text from my sister asking for recipe for it so I will do that and then maybe add it in the post.