It's not easy for me to wax eloquent on M.F.K. Fisher's book, An Alphabet For Gourmets. Her style is surely a reflection of an ascerbic personality ... an independent woman with healthy appetites who is unafraid of embracing them and reflecting on them, to boot! I'm betting she was great fun to have at a dinner party, but also a guest who would be carefully matched at table with dining companions.
Her book is as the title suggests - a series of essays that reflect on various aspects of the gastronomic experience. Everything from gluttony to aspic, from meringues to aphrodisiacs is served up. Her reminiscences of gourmet meals in exotic locations, tongue-in-cheek comments on certain dinner companions, and spearing of pretentious parties is great fun to read. Mixed in are short recipes that she feels must be shared. Some are utterly homey and others are fancy and highbrow, but delivered in her clear way, they seem accessible to the common foodie.
One gets the feeling that M.F.K. Fisher traveled and lived well, crossed through many social circles, and settled into her California country house for a long series of remembrances, taking the best from her travels and savoring them with a good bottle of wine and a typewriter.
I read these essays over the course of the winter. The book sat on my bedside table and I would pick it up every few days and read one or more before turning off the lamp at night. I was left with a chuckle or a thought about a particular food or a wondering thought about traveling in France or what restaurant life was like during the fifties and sixties, or the beginnings of the American food scene that grew in the media in the post-war years. It was a good book for cogitating ...