left: Ms. Fisher herself.
“Now, of all times in history, we should be using our minds as well as our hearts in order to survive…to live gracefully if we live at all.” – MFK Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf.
MFK Fisher composed her book How to Cook a Wolf in 1942, right after the great depression and during WWII rationing. Government pamphlets demanded “balanced meals;” for example, a breakfast of “fruit juice, hot or cold cereal, scrambled eggs with bacon, buttered toast, coffee or tea or milk.” At the same time, rationing restraints promoted “Meatless Tuesdays” to a horrified meat-and-potatoes culture. Housewives nationwide concocted hideous combinations of rice, peas and nutmeats, molded into decorative rings, to mimic the meat their husbands craved. Add a white sauce and you’ve made a healthy, economic, family dinner.
Fisher’s approach to a balanced diet on a budget? Jarringly modern. Fisher proposed to “balance the day, not each meal in the day.” Breakfast was simply hot cereal, with maple syrup and butter. Lunch could be a hearty soup of garden vegetables. And dinner? No meat necessary. Have a frittata with tomatoes and zucchini, topped with cheese.
Most importantly, Fisher’s message is that a full stomach can be achieved on a restricted budget and be accomplished with the gusto and spirit of a true connoisseur. This week, I’m going to follow Fisher’s gastronomic survival guide, moving from the most austere dishes to Fisher’s most indulgent celebrations of culinary craft. For the next fives days, we’re going to keep the wolf at bay: and do it on a budget.