By Fred Delkin
Decanting with Delkin
Anyone with a penchant for food and wine has certainly heard of author M.F.K. Fisher, whose writing chronicled her exploration of ways to please one’s palate. Her work published in books and periodicals for over four decades deserves credit for awakening Americans to a new enjoyment of what we eat and drink. Now, a well-chosen collection of her “Musings on Wine and Other Libations” is available as edited by Anne Zimmerman and just released by Sterling Publishing of New York City. Born to a prominent California family, Fisher wandered in Europe following her 1929 college graduation and began to record her gastronomic adventures before returning to her homeland to marry and raise a family.
Today, there’s a plethora of wine publishing, much of it too overbearing for the average sipper. Fisher, as quoted by admiring author Jordan Mackay, “was the best kind of wine writer, one who drank for pleasure…cerainly she had taste, but more importantly, she reveled in the fact that wine is a drink that brings people closer and makes both food and life better.” Read her work and you understand that she was no wine ‘geek’ defining the esoteric attributes of fine wine, she simply enjoyed the stuff.. She lived and wrote in California wine country in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and inspired the growth of the American wine industry and our understanding of how the fermented grape enhances food appreciation.
Katherine Cole, current wine columnist for the Oregonian, has Fisher’s influence right…”Before wine writing became insufferable, it was exuberant and Fisher didn’t concern herself with ‘noses’ or ‘mid-palates’…she was a good storyteller, with a sharp wit.”
You didn’t read Fisher for a discussion of soil types or barrel references. Wine literature has become too good at making wine a very complicated subject. Anthology author Zimmerman’s first book was An Extravagant Hunger…the Passionate Voice of M.F.K. Fisher. She is currently an instructor at Stanford University’s Writer’s Studio. Consider some of the chapter titles in her Fisher anthology…”I was really very hungry”, “Mother’s Cocktail Hour plot”, “Progress trounces the wine snob”, “Cheese, fruit, wine: perfect pleasure.”
This collection offers no less than 30 Fisher essays on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…all penned in a breezy, unpretentious style. We endorse the anthologist’s designation of Fisher as “the greatest female food writer of the twentieth century…one who understands the pleasure of nourishing yourself and others.” Personally, I wouldn’t limit this salutation’s gender designation.