The Terroir of Food Writing: Gender and Genre in M.F.K. Fisher's Translation of Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste
What we write about when we write about food was shaped by the literary interplay between French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of The Physiology of Taste or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy (Physiologie du gout ou, méditations de gastronomie transcendante, 1825) and his translator, twentieth-century American food writer M.F.K. Fisher, in a complex relationship that crossed centuries, locales, and genders. They created a narrative approach to food that transcends the mere “how-to” manual, putting the concepts of literary and culinary craft into conversation with the personal, intellectual, and historical; they introduced the whole world of life and death as suitable grist for the food writer’s mill, and revealed the gendered world of food preparation and the writing that chronicles it. My examination of the multifaceted relationship between these two writers as revealed in The Physiology lays bare the equally complicated links between genre, gender, and place in food writing. As part of my examination, I will utilize the materialist analysis of bibliographic criticism to explore the 1949 and 1994 editions of The Physiology. These editions are important not only because Brillat-Savarin was an innovator in food writing but because Fisher was a disruptor, an interventionist into both Brillat-Savarin’s work and the staid, incurious, pre-packaged cooking of mid-twentieth-century America. I have therefore focused on the complex literary relationship between the two in order to assess the effects of their writing within the field. Food writing in a broad sense has emerged as one of the most popular literary genres of our time. Examining its core founders helps to generate a better understanding of the cross-generational, cross-gendered, and cross-national effects of their literary collaboration and of how those effects – on topics, tone, and the gendering of food writing – manifest in food writing of not only Brillat-Savarin’s and Fisher’s eras, but in the twenty-first century as well.
terroir, MFK Fisher, Brillat-Savarin, gender in food writing, genre in food writing, culinary literature, gastronomic literature, literary terroir, food culture, materiality of food writing, gastronomic writing, food in literature, The Art of Eating, culinary writing, food writing, food and food writing, gender in restaurants, bibliographic criticism, textual scholarship
Master of Arts (M.A.)