April was Poetry Month: M.F. K. Fisher

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Adieu to Stacey and her April poetry posts: The passage excerpted here isn't poetry, though it did inspire a poem worth reading. (W.H. Auden's "Tonight at 7:30"). Auden dedicated his poem to M.F.K. Fisher, who wrote the following prescription for gastronomic perfection. It comes to mind because those who are doing "The Cure" will soon be hosting dinner parties. It's good to keep these rules in mind, even if one disagrees with and breaks them.

"...gastronomic perfection can be reached in these combinations: one person dining alone, usually upon a couch or a hillside; two people , of no matter what sex or age, dining in a good restaurant; six people, of no matter what sex or age, dining in a good home...

The six should be capable of decent social behavior; that is, no two of them should be so much in love as to bore the others, nor at the opposite extreme should they be carrying on any sexual or professional feud which could put poison on the plates all must eat from. A good combination would be one married couple, for warm composure; one less firmly established, to add a note of investigation to the talk; and two strangers of either sex, upon whom the better-acquainted could sharpen their questioning wits...

As for social hurdles, they should not exist, but if by chance one otherwise intelligent and charming guest would, because of early training or later worldly compulsions, prove incapable of dining with pleasure in the company of a butcher or a nuclear physicist, the latter should be invited some other time, or vice versa: it is ridiculous to threaten an evening's possible perfection in the name of democracy, gastronomical or otherwise...

Some such dinner party, then, for six carefully chosen people, should not be given in a public place...

No, six are too many for anything but a private room, and a family dining room, no matter how ornate or simple as long as it is fairly small, is the best place...

- M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating (Collier Books, 1990)

(Thanks, Stacey!)

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.

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