Read Serve It Forth by M.F.K. Fisher Online


In Serve It Forth, her first book, M. F. K. Fisher takes readers on an animated journey through culinary history, beginning with the honey-loving Greeks and the immoderate Romans. Fisher recalls a hunt for snails and truffles with one of the last adepts in that art and recounts how Catherine de Medici, lonely for home cooking, touched off a culinary revolution by bringingIn Serve It Forth, her first book, M. F. K. Fisher takes readers on an animated journey through culinary history, beginning with the honey-loving Greeks and the immoderate Romans. Fisher recalls a hunt for snails and truffles with one of the last adepts in that art and recounts how Catherine de Medici, lonely for home cooking, touched off a culinary revolution by bringing Italian chefs to France. Each essay makes clear the absolute firmness of Fisher's taste--contrarian and unique--and her skill at stirring memory and imagination into a potent brew....

Title : Serve It Forth
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780865473690
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 160 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Serve It Forth Reviews

  • P.
    2019-05-28 05:09

    PREFATORY DIGRESSION:I was (and still am) a huge Chronicles of Narnia fan. I would re-read those suckers yearly. They are the first books where I remember wanting to eat what the characters are eating. The word "delicious" is used a lot. There's a point in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where the children are hiding with the beaver family in this little cave. Of course it's all winter outside. It goes like this:"'Wherever is this?'" said Peter's voice, sounding tired and pale in the darkness. (I hope you know what I mean by a voice sounding pale.)"...[It was] just a hole in the ground but dry and earth. It was very small so that when they all lay down they were all a bundle of clothes together, and what with that and being warmed up by their long walk they were really rather snug.... Then Mrs. Beaver handed round in the dark a little flask out of which everyone drank something--it made one cough and splutter a little and stung the throat, but it also mad eyou feel deliciously warm after you'd swallowed it--and everyone went straight to sleep."So, the combination of having a voice described as pale (I LOVED that) and the minute description of how the delicious liquid affected the children, and the closeness of the cave combined with the coldness of the world outside meant that I conflated it all so that my personal mental conception of the word "delicious" is that of waking very early and warm in a dark cave and biting through the thinnest layer of ice possible so that it melts in your mouth and slakes your thirst.WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THATM.F.K Fischer's book is delicious. Now you know exactly what I mean when I say that.It is full of small, wonderfully-described personal stories like the one I just told. But better! Each chapter is like a little hard candy of a story that begs savoring. But I ended up crunching them all quickly. Luckily I own the book so I can go back.

  • Chris
    2019-06-05 02:49

    Not the knock-me-off-my-feet tour de force I had been led to believe I would experience with MFK Fisher. Perhaps, this being her first outing, she had not found her voice yet, although I find that hard to believe because she is nothing in this book if not self-assured. I think the mix of topics she writes about has to be the issue, because her style seems fully present. There were many essays about food history, but they, for the most part, bordered on fiction, as they tended to gloss over any real events and lacked any sense of having been researched. On the other hand, the essays about her own personal experiences were the highlight, and every now and then you can feel yourself in the time and place she describes, whether it's in an old favorite restaurant with an old favorite waiter, or outside catching snails.This book struck me more as evidence of how far the food world has come in the past century. It seems obvious that the height of food culture in her day has come and gone in ours. Fusion and experimentation has replaced French haute cuisine as the apex of culinary mastery, and the variety of fresh ingredients available today has put a cover of dust over the old classics. In any case, the book was short, well-written, and there were enough real moments of human experience in Serve It Forth to not put me off reading another of her books.

  • Eingram
    2019-06-05 09:50

    I have read some strange recipes in my day - Roman condiments made from the juice of rotten fish, the front half of a capon sewed to the back half of a suckling pig (lest your dinner guests get bored), mellified man - but what follows is one of the weirdest, because, WTF England?This is for a beverage supposedly drunk in England between, say, 1100 and 1450 AD."To make Cock Ale," instructs one ancient recipe reprinted in 1736 in Smith'sCompleat Housewife , "take ten gallons of ale and a large cock, the older the better. Parboil the cock, flea him, and stamp him in a stone mortar until his bones are broken. You must craw and gut him when you flea him. Put him into two quarts of sack, and put to it 3 pounds of raisins of the sun stoned, some blades of mace, and a few cloves."Put all these into a canvas bag, and a little while before you find the ale has done working, put the ale and bag together into a vessel. In a week or 9 days' time bottle it up, fill the bottles but just above the necks, and leave the same to ripen as other ale."What?

  • Christina
    2019-06-15 09:13

    I am a little bit in love with her.

  • Hilary Hanselman
    2019-06-04 07:02

    Some lovely chapters that exemplify the charming and thoughtful prose I associate with Fisher, but also a fair few chapters that left me wanting more. I wouldn't hold this up as a great example of her talent but for any lover of her writing there are plenty of wonderful passages that make this a book worth reading

  • Tama Filipas
    2019-06-06 08:13

    I read MFK Fisher's book The Gatronomical Me, about a year ago and ~loved~ it. To me this one is more like a report done for a class, with the occasional chapter of her heartfelt, delicious writing interspersed. My library book group ended up with this title because we wanted something by her, and this was the only one in stock at our distributor's warehouse. It's not bad, it's just feels like a first book, which it is. I'll very happily go on reading her later works, and glad to have gotten this one out of the way.

  • Greg
    2019-05-22 08:06

    “If Time, so fleeting, must like humans die, let it be filled with good food and good talk, and then embalmed in the perfumes of conviviality.” May it be filled too, one might add, with fine writing like this. Serve it Forth is such a delightful read, full of surprising ideas and sentences. The chapter “The Standing and the Waiting” is quite simply one of the finest things I’ve ever read - unique, affecting, unforgettable. Five stars for that alone.

  • John
    2019-06-16 05:15

    This is not nearly as polished as Fisher's Consider the Oyster, which is my favourite of hers. This one is earlier, in fact her first published book, and it is patchy. In places she writes with a pretentious mock-scholarly tone which is nonsense. But in other places her raw talent as a writer (WH Auden apparently considered her the best writer in America) shines through. The short story, "Standing and Waiting," is absolutely singular; one of the greatest pieces of short narrative I've ever read. After reading three of her books (plus her translation of Brillat-Savarin), Fisher has moved into "collectable" for me. She's got a couple of dozen titles to her name; I imagine I'll be reviewing more of them here in months and years to come.

  • Sarah Critchley
    2019-05-19 09:17

    If you like eating and reading and haven't picked up any M.F.K. Fisher, you are doing yourself a disservice!

  • Ann Adams
    2019-06-11 06:50

    An unusual book---will appeal to gourmands with a real appetite for words.

  • Reyna Eisenstark
    2019-06-16 04:03

    Perfect. Smart, witty, clever, as per usual. I am tempted to say I ate this book up but I will refrain. Now, on to the next!

  • Matt
    2019-05-22 04:09

    "Borderland," an essay from this collection, is one of the most alluring pieces of writing I've encountered in a while. If you're a food writer, you may want to avoid reading any MFK Fisher. She'll make you feel inadequate.

  • Robert
    2019-06-12 02:52

    MFK Fisher is often referred to as a food writing pioneer, but really she was also ahead of her time in the now familiar blend of personal memoire and informative prose, her brilliant writing illuminating her life and the neverending story of food. I’m familiar with her work from many other sources, so I had great expectations of this, her first published book. Unfortunately, like many first efforts, it includes a lot that doesn’t live up to her later work – pieces about food in history that sound exactly as old as they are, which is about 80. Having enjoyed other jewels from her pen, parts of this book are quite disappointing. The miraculous thing is how unique and un-expired other parts are. She shines where she combines stories from her own life with stories of food, as in a charming bit about one of the most satisfying things she’d ever eaten: bread and chocolate after a hike in the French mountains. And throughout, anything she experiences herself is described in poetic evocative language; here’s an example, describing an efficient busman working in an otherwise despicable restaurant:His body is good, with no bones holding it up, but not soft, either, and his hair is fine and purple above his dark face.He moves like a wave, steadily and impersonally. Other people are shoved and pushed, but as he walks through the restaurant, balancing his body easily under the tray, he is never touched.Her best bits, though, seem almost too fantastic to be true – but if made up they are, what an imagination she has. Here’s an example (describing different styles of kitchens):There is a Basque kitchen I once heard of that has very pleasant things about it, too. One wall of the stone-built room is packed with straw, all of it, solidly. Its surface is clipped to a neat smoothness. Then, the first cold night of autumn, the straw wall is lit from the bottom, and so cleverly has it been laid that the whole room blazes with a slow steady warmth until late spring comes. Ashes sift down all winter to the hot bed on the floor, where three-legged gipsy pots send out the heady odours of Basque stews; and no lamps are ever needed.So: an uneven book, and certainly not the best place to start with M.F.K. Fisher, but worthwhile (and very short!).

  • Brooke Everett
    2019-06-06 04:49

    Each essay is more delightful and the last, and they're all filled with such lovely thought nuggets. Her writings are considered classics for a reason - almost every page contains something deliciously quotable.Garum - 100 A.D. - 400 A.D. Rome - "Then when refinement, sure arbiter of a decadent civilization, crept into Grecian cuisine, her tardy shadow Rome leaped feverishly in a grotesque and fascinating imitation." p. 33Fifty Million Snails - "On a bush they are beautiful, unless you are the gardener who planted the bush. They are beautiful on plates, too, each one in its little dent, shell full of hot green butter like a magic cup. In Burgundy they are most beautiful, piled in baskets in the stores, the shells one of the most luminous gentle browns in the world, like the hair of a Leonardo Virgin." p. 40-41Meals for Me - "For my own meals I like simplicity above all. I like newness in what I serve, perhaps because any interest I may thus stir in my fellow diners is indirect flattery of myself. I like leisure." p. 51I Arise Resigned - "Oddly enough, it was not until the eighteenth century that Europeans became conscious of the subtle relations between the soul, on whose existence they spent so much thought, and the human stomach, on whose subsistence they spent even more time." p. 59"Men have been made foolish, or vicious, or even lifeless, by the fumes of wine, but more often they have been succoured. Gaiety and love have seemed easier to attain, and with wine have flowed the wit of great men and the beauty of women. They are resigned; life has been made acceptable." p. 60The Pale Yellow Glove - "Once at least in the life of every human, whether he be brute or trembling daffodil, comes a moment of complete gastronomic satisfaction. It is, I am sure, as much a matter of spirit as of body. Everything is right; nothing jars. There is a kind of harmony, with every sensation and emotion melted into one chord of well-being." p. 99

  • Heather
    2019-06-08 09:04

    This book was hit and miss for me, but ultimately not as engaging as I was hoping. I have the compilation The Art of Eating, which contains Fisher's first 5 books, and as I read the introductions (all 3 of them) and quotes from authors and chefs alike exulting in Fisher's transcendent prose and evocative descriptions, I guess my expectations were set a little too high. The food history and meditations on food and eating were interesting, but ultimately a little underwhelming after the glowing reviews. If you want much of the same education on the food appreciation of different eras, I suggest searching out a British television show from a few years ago, called Supersizers Go, which entails a restaurant critic and a comedienne immersing themselves in different eras every episode: dressing, acting, and eating as the Romans would, or the Elizabethans. I found all of the episodes on YouTube, and it was vastly entertaining.I'm being a little too negative. I really did enjoy it for the most part, especially the chapter on eating alone, and the one on how the personal chefs of the aristocrats, at loose ends after the French Revolution, opened the first gourmet establishments that became the foundation for the restaurant culture that we know today. I'm going to keep reading (though not right away - other books are calling my name), because I've heard that The Gastronomical Me and How to Cook a Wolf are particularly good.

  • Robin
    2019-05-26 03:15

    This was a great book group read in that it does what book group does well - Introduce me to topics and writers I'd otherwise be inclined to pass by.I read Serve it Forth and thought, 'this is charming writing from another era (and another economic class.' MFK Fisher is talented when crafting her paragraphs and her wit, but why were we asked to read this?'So, it turns out MFK is a pretty big deal in a lot of ways. Writing in the 30s and 40s, she broke ground for women as a smart and engaging writer, and she championed the concept of truly enjoying one's meals and the company in which they were eaten, regardless of the luxury (or lack of it) of the ingredients.Fisher came from a publishing family, 5th generation - I read that she didn't want her father to know she was writing for money. I enjoyed her style and her love of life but never found myself fully engaged. Published in 1937, this is a book of luxurious food writing from a time when people were starving in the Great Depression.

  • Sara
    2019-06-11 06:48

    I've never read any M. F. K. Fisher, but it's been on my proverbial list. And then I randomly picked up Provence, 1970, which was largely about her, and I figured now was the time to pick up her first book.I 100% understand why she's considered the queen on food writing. You could string together a bunch of different adjectives (witty, interesting, precise, relaxing, a gem), but there's... really not a single word to describe her writing style. Rare to find someone who writes like this these days, though, which is a damn shame.I have a feeling I'm going to bust through too many of her books in a row.

  • Katy
    2019-06-05 05:13

    this one took a while, and took backseat to a lot of other books. i dusted it off and finished it today. i found it charming, intellectual, dated and just... fun. it was heady at times, and it shows it's age, but as food writing goes, it's about as charming as they come. from "The Social Status of a Vegetable" - "as the steak disappeared, i watched her long old ear-lobes pinken. i remembered what an endocrinologist had told me once, that after rare beef and wine, when the lobes turned red, was the time to ask favours or tell bad news..."i will venture on to more of Fisher's work later, but it might take awhile!

  • Torrie
    2019-06-12 10:01

    I know M.F.K. Fisher is a legend, and I'm sure I'll like her future works more (as I plan to read many others by her)...but this first volume was a little too heavy on the history side for me. I did, however, love her descriptions of her own memorable meals and waiters and dining companions, and there are a few of them I don't think I'll ever forget. All in all, I'm excited to get further into her work, as it will contain less history than this one did.

  • Jackie
    2019-05-21 04:58

    M.F.K. Fisher is such a gem. How have I not heard of her before? This book mixes contemporary musings on food with a chronological approach to dining through the centuries (I especially enjoyed the chapter that included a grocery list from the Elizabethan era). Her observations about the composition of a perfect dinner party are spot-on (never more than six people, and avoid couples in the early throes of courtship, since they'll be too focused on what comes afterward).

  • Isa
    2019-05-21 10:52

    If the history and exaltation of the humble potato excite you, if a vignette bordering on a tangerine slowly drying on a windowsill in Paris relaxes you, or if you appreciate the singular pleasure of eating alone, then pick up this book. Fisher not only tantalizes with food, she also uses it to bring history to life. Actually, I should say that it seems she makes food inextricable from history, placing it in the context of culture and daily life, where it should be.

  • Stacy
    2019-05-23 04:17

    This was a very curious book, a seemingly random mixture of Fisher's own personal recollections concerning food and her version of the history of civilization and food. Still, I found myself admiring her skill with the pen as I read. One short story was especially moving, about taking a friend to a restaurant she remembered as being the best in France many years later... I will try "The Gastronomical Me" next.

  • Christina
    2019-05-29 07:00

    I came across this book while doing research on cookbooks at a Borders in town. Rather than wait until the weekend coupons, I had to buy it immediately. Her prose is at once erudite and accessible, and the short chapters make for quick reading on study breaks. Her love of food is palpable, and there is such a witty presence in the writing. I think I'll have to buy the big anthology next...

  • Cindywho
    2019-06-12 10:00

    I think I ran into a reference to this food writer when reading reviews of Garlic and Sapphires (which I haven't read yet) She has a large oeuvre of short essays about gastronomy that began in the 1930s. This was her first publication and it was charmingly dated, light and amusing. Snails, tangerines, subtleties, histories and personalities. (August 30, 2005)

  • Mark
    2019-05-20 11:05

    Well, it's interesting, albeit a little bit "precious". I'll need to read more of her stuff to see if I actually enjoy it. Since this was her first book, or the earliest one I know of, later work probably shows up more easily the directions she evolved in.

  • Joy
    2019-06-06 06:02

    A collection of essays about food, and the art of eating. A genre creator, the author advocates simple, good food and great conversation. MFK Fisher writes extremely well, a couple of these essays will bring a tear to your eye.

  • Black Elephants
    2019-05-19 03:51

    More wit and wisdom from MFK Fisher in her first and most well-known collection of essays. Overall, my opinion still holds: I read until suddenly a line or image grabs my attention and I can't help but laugh or empathize deeply with the writer and her situation.

  • Fishface
    2019-06-14 09:49

    I liked this one a lot. It's a loose collection of essays on subjects such as eating snails, the great gorgers of history like Lucullus, and eating alone. Every piece is well-written, in MFK Fisher's inimitable style.

  • Avi
    2019-06-06 06:57

    Worth reading just for the line, "Gastronomy nourished itself on rumour, and from the Spartan black broth was born a refined and decadent philosophy of eating."Also a good reminder to not invite to many people over for meals.

  • Laura
    2019-05-29 08:51

    Since I'm more in the mood for her, (her voice, her thoughts and opinions) I preferred the chapters not focused on food history. Later, I may circle back and read it again for the food history.

  • Bryant
    2019-06-10 04:04

    I'm sorry, negative reviewers, but you're wrong. This book is delightful. The prose has a spring in its step. The book's weird quality of hovering between history and lore only enhances the magic. What's the best way to find a truffle? Why, send a septuagenarian virgin out into the forest, of course.

  • Karen
    2019-06-07 11:00

    Entertaining essays about culinary history. I loved the story of Catherine de Medici introducing haute cuisine to France and the heartbreaking one about a longtime waiter, just fired, who goes out of his way to serve one last great meal.

  • Giovanna
    2019-06-14 02:59

    Such a collection of stories, ranging from the loving execution of a rabbit to a considered look at kitchens, and a still relevant look at the social status of vegetables (think of the commotion about Obama eating arugula).

  • Maggie
    2019-05-23 04:16

    This book isn't a cook book. It also isn't a book of poetry. But if you mixed the two together, and if you are lucky, you may get a book like this. I plan to read more by M.F.K. Fisher.

  • Jay
    2019-06-04 11:11

    4 stars -- The first of a set of five books containing a collection of interesting and witty essays and anecdotes tied together by the subject of food. Beautiful writing.

  • Sarah
    2019-06-02 02:57

    A bunch of short essays based around food. Kind of cool to see how food was approached in the early 1900s. Some of it dragged, but generally a pretty decent, short book.

  • Charlie
    2019-06-08 09:57

    A good read to inspire you about eating food. She is really funny but dead serious about the pleasures and the horrors of how and why we taste the things we do.

  • Greta
    2019-05-27 03:17

    Thanks for putting this on your to-read list, Betsy! Just picked it up from the library- it's wonderful so far. I especially love the chapter "Borderland".

  • Charlotte Pargee
    2019-05-18 07:04

    I like to read food narratives. M.F.K. Fisher is a classic writer from the the early to mid 20th C. She lived in both N. and S. California, and France.

  • ai
    2019-06-06 03:16

    yes, this - "first, i need space enough to get a good simple meal for six people. more of either would be wasteful as well as dangerously dull."

  • Sonia
    2019-05-28 03:59

    Most of the essays are not as personal and therefore not as timeless and easy as those in the Gastronimical Me. But still pretty entertaining.

  • Dianne
    2019-06-07 08:11

    I love her enthusiasm for good food and how she describes her various homes, kitchens, travels, loves, etc. A favorite author.

  • Brad
    2019-06-08 10:13

    A classic of multi-sensory gastronomic writing that opens a window to other eras, tastes and sensory orientations.

  • Tom
    2019-06-13 04:55

    You cannot be interested in food and not read MFK Fisher. This is her opening salvo and is a must read.

  • Lori
    2019-06-05 03:53

    Loved it. This woman is fast becoming my new "food writing" hero (along with Julia Child).