The Gastronomical Me

I’ve been pretty crap at posting lately. Okay, very crap. I haven’t posted at all in July yet. I’m sorry.

I’ve been a super busy bee over at Patty & Bun, working very hard to learn the behind-the-scenes workings of a restaurant. That’s great and all, but working 45-hour weeks leaves little time to research foodie things. It barely leaves enough time to eat food.

Not only that, but we moved flat last week! We now live in Marylebone, London, and are lucky enough to own bookshelves and a small courtyard to boot!

In my small slices of spare time I have been reading a lot. Here is one foodie book I’ve been enjoying recently:

The Gastronomical Me.

The Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher is an autobiographical retelling of Fisher’s life between 1912 and 1941, but with great concentration on the meals that shone most brightly in her memory. The book comments on the experience of women at the time and on the approach of the second world war, but I enjoyed reading it purely as a commentary on the food, restaurants and atmosphere – largely in France, where she spends her early twenties. The relationship she draws throughout the book between the food, those she is sharing the experience with and the atmosphere in which she is eating creates a new dimension to the way in which food can bring people together that I had never fully thought of before.

Her writing is truly mouth-watering. The description of smell, taste and atmosphere is invaluable in learning to truly appreciate the combination of food and context – whether the external atmosphere of the room or the internal mind. The book is largely about hunger, and how not just any food can fulfil certain hunger or, perhaps, no food at all. It’s a powerful book, with phenomenal description of food such that you can almost taste it.

“I saw the golden hills and the live oaks as clearly as I have ever seen them since; and I saw the dimples in my little sister’s fat hands in a way that still moves me because of that first time; and I saw food as something beautiful to be shared with people instead of a thrice daily necessity.

            I forget what we ate, except for the end of the meal. It was a big round peach pie, still warm from Old Mary’s oven and the ride over the desert. It was deep, with lots of juice, and bursting with ripe peaches picked that noon. Royal Albertas, Father said they were. The crust was the most perfect I have ever tasted, except perhaps once upstairs at Simpon’s in London, on a hot plum tart.”

(Fisher retelling “one of the nicest suppers” she had ever eaten, when she was ten.)

“She is alive to the way that at the end of every meal, there is a wistfulness, because we will never get it back again. Very few food writers have ever been so honest about death. She shows us that to have hungers and the means to satisfy them is how we can tell we are fully alive.”

(Bee Wilson’s preface to the book.)

This may go deeper than usual writing about food, but it is important to remember the intense effect that eating food has on our states of minds, emotions, and so on. Reading The Gastronomical Me made me appreciate so much more the importance of food, cooking, restaurants and the people we share these experiences with.


Regular posts will resume tomorrow, and continue every Sunday!


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