Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (July 3, 1908 - June 22, 1992) was a prolific and well-respected writer, writing more than 20 books during her lifetime and also publishing two volumes of journals and correspondence shortly before her death in 1992. Her first book, Serve it Forth, was published in 1937. Her books dealt primarily with food, considering it from many aspects: preparation, natural history, culture, and philosophy. She understood that eating well was just one of the arts of life, always her second theme, and she wrote with the pacing and precision of a first rate essayist or short story writer.
Fisher was born Mary Frances Kennedy in Albion, Michigan. Within two years of her birth, her father, Rex Kennedy, moved the family to Whittier, California to pursue a career in journalism. While Whittier was a Quaker community, Mary Frances was brought up within the Episcopal Church.
While studying at the University of California in 1929, Fisher met her first husband, Alfred Young Fisher. The couple spent the first formative years of their marriage in Europe, primarily at the University of Dijon in France. At the time, Dijon was known as one of the major culinary centers of the world and this certainly had an impact on Fisher, who later went on to become one of the great culinary writers of the twentieth century.
In 1932, the couple returned from France to a country ravaged by the Great Depression. Having lived for years as students on a fixed stipend, they were wholly unprepared for the economic situation that faced them. Al got odd jobs cleaning out houses before finally landing a teaching job at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Fisher did her part teaching a few lessons at an all-girls' school and working in a frame shop.
In addition to being an author, Fisher was an amateur sculptor working mostly in the realm of wood carving.
During the Fishers' years in California, they formed a friendship with Dillwyn "Timmy" Parrish and his wife, Gigi. Later, in 1938, Fisher was to leave Alfred for Timmy, referred to as "Chexbres" in many of her books, named after the small Swiss village on Lake Geneva close to where they had lived. The second marriage, while passionate, was short. Only a year into the marriage, Parrish lost his leg due to a circulatory disease, and in 1941 took his own life. She was involved in a number of other turbulent romantic relationships with men and women.
Fisher later bore two daughters. Anne, whose father Fisher refused to name, was born in 1943. Kennedy was born during Fisher's short-lived marriage to Donald Friede, which lasted from 1945 to 1951.
After Parrish's death, Fisher considered herself a "ghost" of a person, but went on to live a long and productive life, dying in California in 1992 at the age of 83. She had long suffered from Parkinson's disease and arthritis, but lived the last twenty years of her life in "Last House," a house built for her in one of California's vineyards.
A full list of her works can be found at The MFK Fisher Foundation Webpage.
- Serve It Forth (1937)
- Consider the Oyster (1941)
- How to Cook a Wolf (1942)
- The Gastronomical Me (1943)
- Here Let Us Feast, A Book of Banquets (1946)
- Not Now but Now (1947)
- An Alphabet for Gourmets (1949)
- The Physiology of Taste [translator] (1949)
- The Art of Eating (1954)
- A Cordial Water: A Garland of Odd & Old Receipts to Assuage the Ills of Man or Beast (1961)
- The Story of Wine in California (1962)
- Map of Another Town: A Memoir of Provence (1964)
- Recipes: The Cooking of Provincial France (1968) [reprinted in 1969 as The Cooking of Provincial France]
- With Bold Knife and Fork (1969)
- Among Friends (1971)
- A Considerable Town (1978)
- Not a Station but a Place (1979)
- As They Were (1982)
- Sister Age (1983)
- Spirits of the Valley (1985)
- Fine Preserving: M.F.K. Fisher's Annotated Edition of Catherine Plagemann's Cookbook (1986)
- Dubious Honors (1988)
- The Boss Dog: A Story of Provence (1990)
- Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon (1991)
- To Begin Again: Stories and Memoirs 1908-1929 (1992)
- Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me: Journals and Stories 1933-1941 (1993)
- Last House: Reflections, Dreams and Observations 1943-1991 (1995)
- Aphorisms of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin from His Work, The Physiology of Taste (1998)
- From the Journals of M.F.K. Fisher (1999)
- Two Kitches in Provence (1999)
- Home Cooking: An Excerpt from a Letter to Eleanor Friede, December, 1970 (2000)
- Norah Kennedy Barr, Foreword from Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me journals by M.F.K. Fisher.
- The M.F.K. Fisher Foundation
- A biography of M.F.K. Fisher by Janice Albert
- A biography of M.F.K. Fisher by Joan Reardon
- M.F.K. Fisher and Me : A Memoir of Food and Friendship by Jeannette Ferrary, (1998) ISBN 0-312-19442-0
- Poet of the Appetites by Joan Reardon, (2004) ISBN 0-86547-562-8
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