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Long Ago In France: The Years In Dijon (DESTINATIONS) Paperback – February 15, 1992
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About the Author
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908-1992) is the author of sixteen books of essays and reminiscences, many of which have become American classics. Her books include "The Gastronomical Me "and "How to Cook a Wolf". In 1991, she was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
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The events in this book, covering much of the first three years of Ms. Fisher's life with her first husband, Al Fisher, spent in a private boarding house in Dijon while hubby Fisher was completing his doctoral dissertation at the University in Dijon. The period of this book occupies a scant seven pages in `Poet of the Appetites', the biography of Ms. Fisher by Joan Reardon, yet the original book reveals practically nothing about the life of husband and wife Fisher. It certainly does not give any clue to why they ended up in Dijon, since their original intention was to study at the more prestigious university in Strasbourg.
This is the first complete work of M.F.K. Fisher's I have read and I feel just a little disappointment. The word pictures of living and eating in Dijon are certainly illuminating, but there is practically none of the humor you find in the books from Mayles and Mayes. There is also less of the scintillating writing I have sampled in some of her more famous pieces. By the author's own admission, much of this material is also a reworking of material from earlier published works as much as it is new stuff mined from her journals of this period.
The most obvious omission is a sense of the troubling times in which these events take place. The three years covered in the narrative are from 1929 through 1931, yet there is virtually no mention of the great depression as it affects Dijon, let alone how it affects the writer and her husband. Oddly, the same is true of Fisher's life as described by her biographer. Fisher's father was the editor, publisher, and owner of a small newspaper in California who did much to subsidize the student life of the young Fishers and of Mary Frances through several difficult years between marriages. Yet, there is practically no mention of this in the writings by and about Fisher.
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Ms. Fisher's life and the influences on her writing, as she is easily, in the twentieth century American culinary world, the Wittgenstein to Julia Child's Einstein. That is the much lesser known theorist of culinary desire matched with the incomparable practitioner of culinary technique, both of whom got their inspiration from the food and cooking of France.
Yet, compared to similar works by probably less talented writers, this book is just a bit flat and dusty, befitting its recollections of events over sixty years before in the author's life. The stories of life are illuminating. The stories of people are a little empty, as all characters other than Mary Frances herself are long gone from the stage.
A good read.
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Between one cataclysmic war and another, newlywed Yanks studying in a lovely...Read more