M. F. K. Fisher

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

M. F. K. Fisher 1908–1992

(Full name Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher; born Mary Frances Kennedy; also wrote under the pseudonyms Victoria Bern and Mary Frances Parrish) American essayist, short story writer, memoirist, novelist, translator, journalist, and author of children's books.

The following entry presents an overview of Fisher's career. For further information on her life and works, see CLC, Volume 76.

Fisher is best known for essays and reminiscences in which she combines sensual descriptions of food with observations about life and culture. In addition to gastronomical essays, Fisher wrote autobiographical short stories, two novels, travel sketches, and memoirs. Although she was primarily known as a food writer during the early years of her career, Fisher is now considered one of America's finest essayists. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1991.

Biographical Information

Fisher was born in Albion, Michigan, in 1908, the daughter of Rex Brenton Kennedy, an editor, and Edith Oliver Holbrook Kennedy, a real estate broker. Two years later her family moved to Whittier, a small Quaker community in southern California. In 1929 Fisher married her first husband and began attending the University of California in Los Angeles and then the University of Dijon in France, where she developed her lifelong passion for French cuisine and culture. She divorced in 1938 and remarried twice, in 1942 and 1945. Residing alternately in California and Europe, Fisher traveled extensively, particularly throughout France, and her experiences there inform the setting and subject matter of many of her books. In her later years she suffered from Parkinson's disease but continued writing, examining both the indignities and consolations of aging. She died in Glen Ellen, California, in 1992.

Major Works

Fisher's first book, Serve It Forth (1937), is recognized as an unusually stylized and artful collection of gastronomic essays with its mélange of personal reminiscence, anecdote, and erudite observations on the cuisine of ancient cultures. Consider the Oyster (1941) and How to Cook a Wolf (1942) are similarly eclectic, combining practical advice on food preparation with insightful commentary on the historical and philosophical significance of cuisine. The Gastronomical Me (1943) has been described as an autobiography using food as the unifying motif for diverse memories. The first of Fisher's two novels, Not Now but Now (1947),...

(The entire section is 569 words.)