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Get ready for your Christmas feasting by reading the best American food writer

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For some time, I’ve been wanting to explore the world of food writing.  I’m not a particularly huge foodie, but since I have to eat anyway, I do try to take care of myself by eating “decently”, and a part of that is really enjoying what I eat and trying to taste every bite. Since it is the time of year that many of us have food on our minds anyway, with the holidays approaching, I thought it was a good time to try food writing.

I hope this doesn’t sound pretentious; I don’t mean it to be.  But I do try not to think about what and how I’m eating rather than just slamming the calories into my stomach. On the flip side, while I try to keep the kitchen equipment simple, I am not shy about a few gadgets to make it quick and easy for me to put a meal on the table quickly.

Media related to food seems to be very popular across the board: between food bloggers, food television, and a still vigorous cookbook industry (ever notice how they have the biggest section in Barnes & Noble?), I’ve often thought that what is called “food writing” should get some love too. 

If you are a person who doesn’t really think of yourself as a reader, but like to cook, this might be something you’ll like that you don’t even know exists!


I’m no gourmet, but one thing I learned from watching French families eat dinner together in hostels (during travel), is that a good dinner it not made from fancy food: it’s made from eating it together and with decent presentation (i.e. Set the table!)

The apple slicer means I always have a healthy snack that I can eat in a civilized way. The cheap apple slicers do 8 slices, but this one has 16, so you feel like your eating more…and also you feel more ladylike. Sliced apples are also a great thing to eat at your desk at work. I was skeptical that the bottom piece would work, but it does by pushing the slices completely through.

I can always get a decent family meal on the table in 30 minutes if I have meat thawed. I either do potatoes in the microwave while I’m grilling the meat, or I serve rice that I started as soon as I got home from work.

Japanese always have cooked rice in the pot; a proper Japanese cooker (Zojirushi brand) keeps the rice hot and ready-to-eat until it’s gone (even days).


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Make a quick pan sauce by combining 1/2 chicken broth and 1/2 wine (about a quarter to a half a cup of each depending on your number of diners) with a tablespoon of mustard in your hot frying pan after the meat is removed (leave the drippings from the meat).

Whisk ingredients in pan until reduced and slightly thickened, turn heat off, add a tablespoon of butter, whisk until combined and voila! You look like you did something nice for dinner!

 

 

To get started, I wanted to start with the most well known food writer I could think of, and that person is M.F.K. Fisher.

The only copy of Fisher’s work I could obtain through the three libraries for which I hold cards* is a huge compendium of five of her books published as The Art of Eating. 

I hope you all appreciate that I took one for the team on this because coping with this giant book is annoying. 

But one of the things that made me feel able to approach Fisher’s work right away is that fact that her individual books are short and approachable, and the chapters within are the same.

What I’m going to warn you about is the prodigious amount of what we call “front matter.” Rule of thumb: if “front matter” is the best name that a bunch of book people can come up with, that alone should tell you to dispense with it as quickly as possible; in short: skip it.  I mean it, flip very quickly through it so that you don’t see all of the prodigious fawning the various Introductions include…there are five of them for heaven’s sake…or you will want to throw this book across the room.  Which might hurt the cat if he doesn’t move fast enough, and then there will be trouble.

So seriously, skip it.  Get straight to Fisher.  If you like her work so much that you want to join in with these folk, you can do that later.

After looking over the five options in this book, I chose Fisher’s first work, Serve it Forth, mainly because there didn’t seem to be too much about cooking and a lot about history.   

I don’t really mind cooking, but for me a good meal is one that is tasty, balanced, not too heavy/fattening, and above all, does not involve a lot of prep time.  I like to challenge myself to get nice meals on the table in less than 30 minutes of active work in the kitchen.

Now, lest you get too bogged down in what and how the Egyptians and the Romans ate, Fisher alternates the chapters with how she likes to eat, and happily, she’s not annoying about it.  It’s not all about pairing the wine with the perfect meal or whatever, in fact, there is one chapter about how she was kind of forced to drink a whole bottle (with a companion) of a really nice wine from a really nasty bottle when one glass would have been better.  Much better.

So I can say now that I am a fan of M.F.K. Fisher, and I am looking forward to trying more of her books and exploring more food writing.


This is the volume that I got from the library, The Art of Eating. It’s pretty big and heavy, so you might prefer to go with individual volumes, which are also still available.


This photo gives you an idea of the size of this volume, but you do get five books!

The photo below shows the works that are included:


I read on Wikipedia that How to Cook a Wolf was written during World War 2, when people had to figure out how to put decent meals together without their normal ingredients.

I’ve always wanted to read her memoirs, too.