Marseilles--a city that scares tourists and rattles the authors of guide books--is Fisher's own salty, darling town. She has known it, off and on, since 1929, ever watchful for any disturbance in its ancient visage: ""I keep an eye on things, like what wars do to little shops."" She knows the leathery faces of the hoarse-voiced women who hawk fish six days a week on the Quai des Belges; the hole-in-the-wall eateries where a panachÃ‰--a mixed platter of fresh shellfish--is more restorative than the gusty sea breezes; the short, dark, broad-bodied men whose implacable, mysterious faces might belong to a bourgeois or a gangster. She has heard--it is the clichÃ‰ of the place--that Marseilles is a tough, evil town, the capital of every sort of violence and illicit trade; it may be so. Certainly, as Fisher takes her leisurely promenade around the Vieux Port, stopping to regard its infestation of espresso bars and skimpy Pinball Boys, strolling through the quarter that lodges the city's current population of Arabs, Algerians, and Viet refugees, she senses that it is a predatory city, a place of survivors whose strong passions can overwhelm the fainthearted. As for herself, she finds it inspires courage and fortitude. Her essays, only rarely tinged with nostalgia, don't tell which hotel to select or even which restaurant serves the most pungent bouillabaisse. But, as her admiring readers know, this mistress of The Art of Eating never settles for the commonplace.