The Gastronomical Me - M.F.K. Fisher, David Bullen "The baker had a fight with the chef soon after we left port, and the barber took over all the pastry making..."Mary Frances had the perfect recipe for blending food writing and autobiography. Inimitable, and such a product of her era. Of all her books, this is the one most suitable for non-foodies. The Sensual Me might have been a better title. Food and drink (LOTS of drink) do get a lot of coverage, but that's only a slice of the book, not the whole pie. Along with the gastronomical, she offers up impressions visual, tactical, aural, and visceral. The chapters are loosely connected snapshots of her life, roughly chronological but with large blocks of time unaccounted for. She begins in 1912 at age four, with her first memory of an irresistible taste -- the foam on top of a kettle of strawberry jam. On through boarding school and her first live oyster, followed by a college gluttony phase, and then Dijon, France as a newlywed. Those early years in France brought the discovery that food was something to be relished and treated with reverence, and it set the course for her life as a gourmand and food writer. [A big chunk of this part of the book was lifted wholesale and plopped into a much later memoir, Long Ago in France, which I read a few months ago. Skip that one. This one's better.] After they leave Dijon things get a little hazy, and I suspect some deliberate vagueness. Mary Frances started a new relationship while in the process of divorcing her husband. She never explains exactly how things developed between herself and Chexbres, the new man. They seem to have led a near-idyllic life in Switzerland until the coming war forced them to flee in the 1930s. She nursed him through a lingering illness until he died, and was on her own at the close of the book. She ends the book in the early 1940s with a maddeningly cryptic story of a trip to Mexico featuring a mariachi musician called Juanito. She was only in her mid-thirties when this book was published in 1943, and I got the feeling from the way it ended that she might have been planning to pick up where she left off at some time far in the future. I've tried to read some of M.F.K.'s other books which are devoted strictly to food. For me, they can't measure up to this one. Her gift for observation and her dry and often mordant wit are best suited to these first-person reminiscences.