Fisher, M. F. K. Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon. When Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher was a new bride of 21, she and her husband Al arrived in Dijon for postgraduate study. It was 1929, and for Fisher and her husband, it was a learning experience of unusual proportions in a city between wars. Language, society, and cuisine were all new, and they were young and eager.
Of this time, Fisher recalls, "It was there, I now understand, that I started to grow up, to study, to make love, to eat and drink, to be me and not what I was expected to be. It was there that I learned it is blessed to receive, as well as that every human being, no matter how base, is worthy of my respect and even my envy because he knows something that I may never be old or wise or tender enough to know."
Fisher kept two journals while there in Dijon, living in two small rooms with first the Ollangniers, then the Rigoulots, and finally, their own tiny (yet more spacious than their previous rooms) apartment in a less socially accepted area of Dijon. She describes the two families with which they boarded with great detail, love, and irritation; relates the meals shared there with attention to the dining room, the company, the conversation, and the food; regales us with the first meal she and Al experienced at the Three Pheasants with the little waiter Charles, who guided them with great tact; recalls the scents of the famous Dijon gingerbread and the snails at Crespin, "the simplest and one of the best restaurants in the world"; tells us that Club Alpin was an excuse for fresh air and "orgiastic" eating.
According to W.H. Auden, "nobody in America wrote better prose," and John Updike called Fisher "a poet of the appetites." This memoir of her youth and three years in Dijon is more casual (as I am discovering) than the writing in her first book, Serve It Forth, and much, much more personal.
Short, but fascinating, Long Ago in France allows us a peek into a vanished world.
Nonfiction. Memoir. 1997. 159 pages.