Last month when I attended the California International Antiquarian Book Fair, I took the opportunity to stop by the booth for the Book Club of California and join the group. I'd meant to join for years, and now I'm so glad I have. It's a great way to support local artists and bookmakers, and my membership has already brought some lovely new art into my life. Case in point: Recently in the mail, I received the Book Club's "Keepsake 2008," a letterpress and linoleum-block printed folio and broadside that accompanied "A Delicious Obsession," a centenary show celebrating the life and works of writer M.F.K. Fisher.
To call Fisher a food writer would be akin to calling Julia Child a cook. Raised in California and transformed by a four-year study of fine cuisine in France, Fisher blazed through a life filled with art, travel, lovers, and the best in food. She chronicled her passions in essays, novels, screenplays, poetry, and her autobiography, The Gastronomical Me. Her writings were instrumental in the emerging of "California cuisine" in the latter half of the 20th-century. Of Fisher, poet W.H. Auden said, "I do not know of anyone in the United States who writes better prose," and John Updike called her "poet of the appetites."
And what a wonderful surprise to see that the illustrations for the folio were created by none other than my dear friend Patricia Curtan. Patricia was a natural for this project. She's famous in Berkeley for her prints and illustrations for Chez Panisse. To me, her work appeals not only to the eye (and to the touch, when printed on fine paper), but triggers the smells and tastes of the food she portrays, such is their beauty.