How M. F. K. Fisher Changed How We Think About Food
Ruth Reichl on the cultural impact of the legendary writer
The career of legendary food writer M. F. K. Fisher spanned decades, and helped reshape the way that people wrote about food. But Fisher’s influence runs deeper than that, argues Ruth Reichl — who is herself no stranger to acclaimed writing on all things culinary.
Reichl first profiled Fisher late in the 1970s, and begins the essay with a moving recollection of their final meeting, shortly before Fisher’s death in 1992. From there, she explores the ways in which Fisher’s career began at a very different point for food in America.
“It is, I think, impossible for people raised in our food-obsessed culture to understand the contempt Americans had for food and cooking when I was growing up,” Reichl writes. And later, she hearkens back to a point long before the present, where food is an essential part of popular culture.
Restaurant chefs had even less cachet; uneducated blue-collar workers, they toiled in terrible conditions, rarely venturing out of their miserable kitchens. A suggestion that they would one day be celebrities would have been met with raucous laughter.
Reichl’s recollections of Fisher also include a moving account of her own early encounters with Fisher’s writing, and the ways in which she was captivated by Fisher’s evocative prose. It’s an excellent and succinct exploration of one writer’s bibliography, and how it changed lives on both an intimate and cultural scale.
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