Feasting on Passion: Love, Food and M.F.K. Fisher, Woman of Appetites


“Food is what she wrote about, although to leave it at that is reductionist in the extreme. What she really wrote about was the passion, the importance of living boldly instead of cautiously; oh, what scorn she had for timid eaters, timid lovers, people who took timid stands, or none at all, on matters of principle.”

Cyra McFadden, San Francisco Examiner, on M.F.K. Fisher

Last Sunday afternoon, my man and I were lounging on the bed decadently devoting ourselves to watching a movie, when suddenly we both realized we were a bit peckish. I wandered out to the kitchen to forage and took great pleasure in creating a lovely little something for us: two steaming bowls of orzo mixed with bits of sauteed tomatoes, asparagus, prosciutto, fresh basil and garlic, topped with grated parmigiano, lemon juice, sea salt flakes and pepper. Simple, yes—but in that moment, no elaborate dish could have satisfied us more. We share a love of food, and that was most definitely the food of love.

Which reminds me: This Saturday marks both the first day of spring and my local farmer’s market—so love is in the air, and more fresh asparagus dressed up in flirty, buttery finery is in the offing.  It is, therefore, the perfect time of year to offer a small and humble tribute to the zesty genius of the late M.F.K. Fisher.

Mary Frances Katherine Fisher was a strange and brilliant food writer with a talent for living large (lots of lovers, husbands, dinner parties and travel, not to mention creative output that included two daughters and 26 books). A wicked good wordsmith, Fisher created prose so vivid and tantalizing, you want to lick the page.


Two of her volumes, as you can see, live in a place of honor in my kitchen. (That’s How to Cook a Wolf on the end there. I highly recommend it.) Another one, the delightful photographic biography, A Welcoming Life: The M.F.K. Fisher Scrapbook, lives in my bedroom bookcase. The kitchen and the boudoir are, it seems to me, perfect homes for books by and about a woman who, to quote the well-worn jacket of A Welcoming Life, ”wrote beautifully and wisely about the complex hungers and satisfactions of life.”

The complex hungers and satisfactions of life…you could spend a lifetime making art using that one phrase as your springboard. Last fall, when the organizers of Slow Food Katy Trail asked me to again participate in their annual art auction and fund raiser, I was happy to oblige. I pulled out two tin recipe boxes I’d had in my collection for some time and played around with them. Nothing was quite coming together for me, however, until I found two images of topless, ripe maidens wielding equally ripe and juicy-looking fruit. Perfect!

But words, I needed some tasty words…. And so I turned first, of course, to M.F.K. Fisher and chose this quote of hers to write in the lid of the first box: “When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and it is all one.”

Thus the resulting mixed media piece, “Hunger for Love,” came together and was sold for a good cause.

I like to think our Mary Frances would have approved of the sister piece I created, “The Fruits of Your Passion.” This box featured a George Santayana quote: “To be happy, you must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passion, and learned your place in the world.”

I don’t know who bought these pieces but trust they are in good homes with people who, just as M.F.K. before them, happily take their place at the table of life and feast with great gusto.

Incidentally, if you’d like to get better acquainted with M.F.K. Fisher, there are wonderful stories to be found on the “Her Friends Remember” section of the all-things-M.F.K. web site

And as my parting gift to you, I offer a delicious slice of M.F.K. prose, served with a dollop of love and the invitation to treat yourself to something very, very good today:


Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat.

…It was then that I discovered little dried sections of tangerine. My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable. I can only write how they are prepared.

In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal towards the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.

Listen to the chambermaid thumping up the pillows, and murmur encouragement to her thick Alsatian tales of l’interieure. That’s Paris, the interior, Paris or anywhere west of Strasbourg or maybe the Vosges. While she mutters of seduction and French bicyclists who ride more than wheels, tear delicately from the soft pile of sections each velvet string. You know those white pulpy strings that hold tangerines into their skins? Tear them off. Be careful.

Take yesterday’s paper (when we were in Strasbourg L’Ami du Peuple was best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on top of the radiator. The maid has gone, of course—it might be hard to ignore her bellligerent Alsatian glare of astonishment.

After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining-room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of guetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally he goes. You are sorry, but—

On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready.

All afternoon you can sit, then, looking down on the corner. Afternoon papers are delivered to the kiosk. Children come home from school just as three lovely whores mince smartly into the pension’s chic tearoom. A basketful of Dutch tulips stations itself by the tram-stop, ready to tempt tired clerks at six o’clock. Finally the soldiers stump back from the Rhine. It is dark.

The sections of the tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.

There must be someone, though, who understands what I mean. Probably everyone does, because of his own secret eatings.

–M.F.K. Fisher in Serve It Forth

Hope you enjoyed that.  Live lusciously, friends.


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8 Responses to “Feasting on Passion: Love, Food and M.F.K. Fisher, Woman of Appetites”

  1. forex robot says:

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  2. Jamie Mades says:

    That orzo dish sounds great! I just turned vegan and have had a hard time finding enough decent recipes that I like (of course I’d leave out the prosciutto and cheese. :)

  3. Thanks for an idea, you sparked a thought from an angle I hadn’t given thought to yet. Now lets see if I can do something productive with it.

  4. CathyK says:


    This is such a lovely post! Well done. I am looking for that perfect MFK Fisher passage to read at my upcoming wedding this August. I love this one you’ve used – though I think it might be a little too risque :) Are there any others you’d recommend? Anything about food+love+family … I know about the Foreword to The Gastronomical Me (three basic needs etc) – which I love. Any other recommendations? I’d love your help!! Many thanks.

  5. Deb Beroset says:

    Thanks, Jamie! May your vegan orzo satisfy your wildest pasta passions…. Look forward to hearing from you again.

  6. Deb Beroset says:

    Hello, CathyK! Ah, a great bit of MFK Fisher for a wedding, what a fine idea. I have a few interesting quotes for you, but I don’t know if they quite fit the bill:

    “All men are hungry. They always have been. They must eat, and when they deny themselves the pleasures of carrying out that need, they are cutting off part of their possible fullness, their natural realization of life, whether they are rich or poor.”

    “I cannot count the good people I know who to my mind would be even better if they bent their spirits to the study of their own hungers.”

    “There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.”

    Honestly, it’s almost hard to find an MFK quote about food and love that doesn’t have a bit of a risque overtone, isn’t it? She was a lusty, passionate foodie, our MFK. Well, weddings are idiosyncratic and highly personal things, and I’m sure that if you don’t choose to riff off any of the above at yours, the perfect bit of prose will come your way and absolutely sing the right notes on your special day.

    All the best to you — and please report back and let us know what you wind up choosing!

  7. Deb Beroset says:

    Forex and San Diego…thank you! Come back and visit again soon, why don’tcha. Happy day to you both.

  8. I’ve bookmarked your blog because I really like it.

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