Culinary History Collection


Current Editor: Cynthia D. Bertelsen

Issue 5 Winter 2004

With Bold Knife and Fork

by M.F.K. Fisher

review by Sandy Bosworth

M.F.K. Fisher is considered one of America's foremost gastronomical writers. She was born in Albion, Michigan in 1908, and died in California in 1992. She grew up in Whittier, California. She wrote her books there and in France. She authored more than twenty-two volumes of essays and reminiscences.

With Bold Knife and Fork was published in 1968.

In her introduction she wrote: "This book is about how I like to cook, most of the time, for people in my world, and it gives some of the reasons. These have made life enjoyable, so they may be of interest to other human beings."

Some of her chapters are:

The Anatomy of a Recipe, Some Seeds of this Planet. (rice, etc)
A Recipe for Happy Hens (eggs)
One Way to Stay Young (salads)
Questionable Crumpets and Such (breads)
and The Secret Ingredient (pickles, etc)

The first chapter is "The Anatomy of a Recipe". According to dictionaries, it concerns the standard make up of a thing-or the act of dividing it for observation. Some comments in this chapter are:

"By about 1650, ladies were keeping receipt books to hand down to their oldest daughters."
"A good recipe, for medern convience, should consist of three parts: name, ingredients, and method." She writes that we shouldn't say just "cake" or "bread" but "Golden Sponge Cake, or "Greek Honey Bread."

The chapter titled "A Recipe for Happy Hens" is fun to read. One of her favorite books is called EGGS and published in Boston in 1890. "The egg is one of the few things in the world original and positive in itself." and "an egg of course is meant to produce another potential egg producer, and that is why it is a living thing."

In the chapter, "The Secret Ingredient" she gives us Lera's Sweet Pickles" 4 large dill pickles (not kosher style) 2 cups sugar 1/2 cup vinegar "Slice pickles thin, put half of them in large jar or crock, and 1 cup sugar. Add rest of pickles and sugar, and let stand overnight. Add vinegar and stir up. Good anytime. Eat fast or put in jars."

M.F.K. Fisher has shared many kitchen secrets and recipes in this book. Her love of cooking is obvious, and her creative way of writing is superb. Enjoy, and try the mustard pickles!

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Last modified on: 06.08.04 by Mark B. Gerus
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