A love language both my daughters have in common is food. They both love the whole ritual of preparing a special meal for people they love. Everything—the sitting down with the favorite cookbooks, the imagining of flavors and beautiful visual moments, the careful peeling and dicing, the flutter of joy as they see it all come to life—it’s all a clear expression of love.
What I see in them isn’t just the love they have for whomever is going to be eating what they’re making, though that is certainly present. They love on the adorable mushrooms. The zaftig heirloom tomato. The avocado caught in that perfect moment of ripeness.
When we’re all together, the dialogue in the kitchen goes something like this with regard to produce:
“Aren’t they just too gorgeous for words?”
“Look at this one, she’s ready to BRING IT.”
“Oh, come here, little guy, it’s your time to shine!”
There’s a lot of love for the moment. Savoring the process. Noticing how beautiful those cherries are in the sun. Feeling connected with what has grown and is now feeding us. Belonging to the process.
There’s a long, rich history of women with an appetite for life using food as a means of speaking of many things. A personal favorite of mine is the zesty genius of the late M.F.K. Fisher.
Mary Frances Katherine Fisher was a strange and brilliant food writer with a talent for living large (lots of lovers, husbands, dinner parties and travel, not to mention creative output that included two daughters and 26 books). A wicked good wordsmith, Fisher created prose so vivid and tantalizing, you want to lick the page.
M.F.K. Fisher is one of those women who embodied what I call Creatrix Magic—someone who is unapologetic, unabashed and unleashed in terms of knowing who she is, what she loves and how she expresses her unique magic in the world. She clearly had a wild heart and lived like every moment was an opportunity to create something.
Two of M.F.K. Fisher’s volumes live in a place of honor in my kitchen. Another one, the delightful photographic biography, A Welcoming Life: The M.F.K. Fisher Scrapbook, lives in my bedroom bookcase. The kitchen and the boudoir are, it seems to me, perfect homes for books by and about a woman who, to quote the well-worn jacket of A Welcoming Life, “wrote beautifully and wisely about the complex hungers and satisfactions of life.”
My gift to you today is a choice bit of M.F.K. prose and an invitation to live like every moment is an opportunity for you to create something, to love the world the way you love to do.
Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat.
…It was then that I discovered little dried sections of tangerine. My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable. I can only write how they are prepared.
In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal towards the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.
Listen to the chambermaid thumping up the pillows, and murmur encouragement to her thick Alsatian tales of l’interieure. That’s Paris, the interior, Paris or anywhere west of Strasbourg or maybe the Vosges. While she mutters of seduction and French bicyclists who ride more than wheels, tear delicately from the soft pile of sections each velvet string. You know those white pulpy strings that hold tangerines into their skins? Tear them off. Be careful.
Take yesterday’s paper (when we were in Strasbourg L’Ami du Peuple was best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on top of the radiator. The maid has gone, of course—it might be hard to ignore her belligerent Alsatian glare of astonishment.
After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining-room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of guetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally, he goes. You are sorry, but—
On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready.
All afternoon you can sit, then, looking down on the corner.
Afternoon papers are delivered to the kiosk. Children come home from school... A basketful of Dutch tulips stations itself by the tram-stop, ready to tempt tired clerks at six o’clock. Finally the soldiers stump back from the Rhine. It is dark.
The sections of the tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.
There must be someone, though, who understands what I mean. Probably everyone does, because of his own secret eatings.
~ M.F.K. Fisher in Serve It ForthDeb Beroset is a creative muse who connects soulful women with their magic and each other. She is the founder of Moxie, which offers programs, workshops, retreats and a community, Club Moxie, for women who want to live a life that feels really good and is true to who they are now. Club Moxie’s doors are closing to new members soon; visit ItsTimeForMoxie.com/club-moxie for your last chance to join at the current rate. See ad, page 23.