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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Long Ago in France (Unread Authors Challenge)

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.


  1. "Dijon is more casual (as I am discovering) than the writing in her first book..." I take it from that statement that you are already delving into her first book?

    This book sounds delicious. Not just her writing, which I loved in the quote you shared, but the descriptions of foods and aromas.

  2. I love MFK Fisher, and the stories she wrote about Southern California (where I live). I'd love to read what she wrote about France...

  3. Booklogged -- Yes, I'm already reading Serve It Forth; Fisher really seems to have lived (and eaten) with gusto!

    Gentle Reader -- When I finish all of these, I'd like to read Among Friends about her early life in Whittier, CA. :)

  4. Sounds yummy. Ever since I read How To Cook A Wolf, I've been eager to sample more of MFK Fisher's work.

  5. Bybee -- Fisher must have been a fascinating person to know. I'm eager to read How to Cook a Wolf; in fact, I'm eager to read a lot more Fisher. Reading Long Ago in France first was, in retrospect, a good move for me because I became so interested in Fisher as a person.

  6. This sounds delightful! I've been meaning to read some MFK FIsher, and this sounds like a good one to start with.

  7. Robin -- I think it is a great place to start! It lets the reader know so much about how her love of food took a definite sensual aspect.

  8. I've heard of MFK Fisher but never made around to any of her books particularly so since I love books on interesting people, travel and food (not necessarily in that order). I'm going to dig this out and others. Thanks for sharing.

    Came here via Book Girl but I'll be back for more.

    Have a good weekend!

  9. indigo -- I'd heard of Fisher, too, and always said I wanted to read her but never got around to it. Then the Unread Authors Challenge came along and provided the perfect opportunity!