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She Made Me a Food Writer
Also, a new source for vintage menus. A terrific old menu from my archive. And Food and Country premieres at Sundance.
I have just learned a word that perfectly describes Mary Frances Fisher: she was oxygeusealeptic, a word I plan to start using with some regularity. (Oxygeusea is an extreme sense of taste.)
In 1980, when an editor at Ms. Magazine called to ask if I had ever heard of MFK Fisher I was a fledgling writer. I immediately began quoting my favorite author, leaning heavily on her description of eating tangerines.
“Great,” the editor replied, “we’d like you to profile her for the magazine.”
I was thrilled - and terrified. So nervous, in fact, that I couldn’t bring myself to telephone the author who’d had such a big influence on me. I wrote her a letter - which set the tone for the relationship we had over the next fifteen or so years. Although we met often, we never once spoke on the phone.
I thought about Mary Frances a few days ago when I was on a panel about burnout with actor Jonathan Majors, cartoonist Adrien Tomine and Tricia Hersey of the Nap Ministry. A young writer stood up to ask a question: he said he had a problem with perfectionism, and could never bring himself to turn a piece in until it was as good as it could possibly be. It made me recall the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given a writer. When the Los Angeles Times offered me a job in 1984, I was reluctant to take it. “Do it!” said Mary Frances. “You’re polishing your pieces as if they were jewels, agonizing over every word. You need to work at a newspaper where an editor will tell you he needs 1000 words in an hour. You write them, knowing they’re not very good. Knowing too that tomorrow they’ll be lining somebody’s birdcage. That’s the only way you’re ever really going to learn your craft.”
I took the job.
Mary Frances was right.
Here’s the Ms. article. If you’re interested in reading one of my more mature articles about MFK Fisher, you can find it here.
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I have found that vintage menus - at least carefully chosen ones - make wonderful gifts. You can find a great selection at Omnivore Books.
And now for something completely different….
This was a dinner Daniel Boulud threw almost twenty-five years ago to pay homage to the great chefs who created la nouvelle cuisine.
For the past week I’ve been in Park City Utah at the Sundance Film Festival, premiering Food and Country, the film I worked on with director Laura Gabbert (City of Gold).
It’s been an incredible week. But for me the biggest thrill was watching the people who are in the film get to know each other. Farmers, chefs, ranchers, activists and fishermen from across the country, they span the political, racial and social divide. Watching them bond was incredibly heart-warming. They came to Park City as strangers and departed as friends. I admire all of these people enormously, and I’m so proud that they have proved, once again, that food can be the glue that holds us together. As the week went on I found myself constantly bursting into tears.