AS THEY WERE by M. F. K. Fisher
Kirkus Star

AS THEY WERE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this glittering collection of 19 personal pieces, written over five decades (some previously published), Fisher salutes with impeccable exactitude the potencies of places and people, food and other sensory diversions, inner and outer weather. Not surprisingly, the author of so many gastronomical explorations writes often about food and dining, She documents the virtuoso preparation of fish in three Swiss inns; recalls eating adventures afloat--from the formidable ""Hodgepodge"" laboriously assembled on a Dutch ship, to the ""bad to frightening meals"" aboard a decrepit Italian freighter manned by a sinister crew. We tour two kitchens in Provence where Fisher learned to keep pace with the ""racing decay"" of fruits and vegetables--""dying as they grow."" We meet assorted walters; the excellent among them, writes Fisher, are ""quiet, deft, attentive, not mechanical but not really human."" We return to a pioneer childhood foray--as Fisher recalls the tricky maneuver (and vanished joys) of eating street tar: ""better than anything ever put out by Wrigley and Beechnut. It had a high, bright taste."" She pays atmospheric tribute variously to the ""dim beauty"" of the Pig 'n' Whistle ice cream parlor; the ""strange massive harmony"" of the Gare de Lyon in Paris; the Thirties glories of a remote village in Lorraine, discovered in a flush of honeymoon-happy hallucinations. Profiling a wintry Aries with not overly hospitable natives (""like the famous little sausages of the town, solid, meaty, gutty""), Fisher is bemused by an hourly, weekly reading of street noises. Another setting brings a different sense of the power of noise: in her third-person story, ""Wind-Chill Factor,"" Fisher lives inside panic during a violent storm in a Long Island beachside house. Throughout, impressions seem caught in midair: a Reno bellboy is ""as impersonal as a geranium in a pot."" Altogether: a treat for Fisher's loyal and considerable following.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1982
ISBN: 0394713486
Publisher: Knopf