Foodie for Thought
Anne Zimmerman, author of the well-received, recently published “An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher,” has quickly become a local celebrity.
Zimmerman, born and raised in Salt Lake City, attended Linfield College in McMinnville and worked at R. Stuart & Co. while a student. Upon graduation, she moved south to earn a Master’s degree from San Diego State University. A self-proclaimed West Coast girl, she’s lived in Portland, Seattle and San Diego. Zimmerman currently calls San Francisco’s busy Mission District home.
In “An Extravagant Hunger,” Zimmerman illuminates the most colorful years of famed food writer M.F.K. (Mary Frances Kennedy) Fisher’s life. Relying on unpublished letters and journals, she explores Fisher’s time in Europe with her first husband, her re-marriage, her second husband’s suicide, and the pleasures of cooking and table that made Fishers’ life transcendent.
“An Extravagant Hunger” reveals the personal story behind some of Fisher’s most beloved gastronomical writings: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf and The Gastronomical Me.
When not writing, Zimmerman admits to scouring the Internet and flipping through her piles of cookbooks and past Gourmet Magazines, making lists of things to cook and bake. She insists on reading the printed version of The New York Times whenever possible, and always sends thank-you notes.
OWP: You recently published your first book, “An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher.” How and why did you decide to write about Fisher?
AZ: I discovered M.F.K. Fisher in graduate school. After attending Linfield College, I ventured south to San Diego to go to school. I missed Oregon and my friends terribly. One day, I was in the library and spotted a Fisher book. I had heard her name dropped while living and working in McMinnville's wine industry, but I didn't know who she was. I checked out a few books and was immediately hooked — the way she wrote about the enjoyment of food and wine mirrored my experience.
I decided to write about M.F.K. Fisher after doing more research about her. I discovered that many of the experiences that shaped her work had never fully been told. I wanted to share that and hopefully inspire more people to dig into the work of an amazing writer.
OWP: Why might Fisher's story appeal to wine (and food) lovers today?
AZ: M.F.K. Fisher had a fascinating life filled with wine, food and travel. Today's readers will love hearing about her voyages, the prized bottles she drank while living in Burgundy and the typically French meals she ate. It isn't hard to understand how these amazing experiences contributed to Fisher becoming a great gastronomic storyteller.
OWP: When did you first become interested in food and wine?
AZ: My mother is a great cook, and I was raised with an appreciation for food. But my understanding of how food and wine worked together came post-college. I was living in McMinnville and working, and had free time and spending money. My roommate — who was working for a winery — and I started going wine tasting on the weekends, eating at the restaurants that were cropping up in Yamhill County and cooking at home. It was an amazing time. Most recent college grads were hanging out in bars, and we were having big dinner parties with friends that lasted ’til the wee hours of the morning. That's still the kind of entertaining I love.
OWP: What is one of your favorite food and wine pairings?
AZ: Despite the fact that I've moved to California, Oregon wine still has my heart, and I drink it whenever I can. I love Alsatian-style Pinot Gris with an onion tart for a simple supper. And Pinot served with lamb lollipops is an ideal spring/summer meal.
OWP: Who are your favorite Oregon producers?
AZ: For five years, I worked for Rob and Maria Stuart at R. Stuart & Co.and my cellar remains stocked with their beautiful wines. That said, I love supporting Oregon wines in the Northern California market and have recently purchased beautiful bottles from Bethel Heights and Chehalem. I especially love buying bottles made by friends: Westrey, Brooks, Ransom, Love & Squalor...
OWP: After researching and writing about MFK Fisher do you see any similarities in the food trends emerging in her time to the food trends emerging today?
AZ: Absolutely. M.F.K. Fisher wrote about the power of sharing and enjoying good food. And the heart of all the current food trends are built upon pleasure — enjoying and sharing food and drink.
OWP: You currently live in San Francisco. What do you like about your new hometown? What do you miss about Oregon?
AZ: I miss Oregon all the time. San Francisco is so big — there's always a new restaurant opening and places are often impossible to get into. It's both annoying and freeing — I don't feel the same pressure to check out the new hot spots that I did while living in Portland.
But I hate the fact that it is next to impossible to walk in anywhere in San Francisco — even dining at the bars is hard. When I lived in Portland it was a little more low-key, but I hear that things are getting a bit more competitive.
OWP: You are a regular contributor to www.culinate.com, a blog about food. What other foodie blogs do you read? Any wine blogs you recommend?
AZ: I love Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn blog. I also love Sprouted Kitchen, A Modern Mealmaker, Eat Make Read, Food Loves Writing, Cucina Nicolina, A Sweet Spoonful and Good Everyday Things. And many, many more.
For six months I have been working as the Tasting Coordinator for Food + Wine Magazine's 2012 Wine Guide, so at the end of the day, I might be in the mood for a glass, but I'm not interested in reading much more about wine.
OWP: Would you like to share any lessons or advice when it comes to writing, research and/or getting published?
AZ: My biggest piece of advice is to find a project you are passionate about and devote yourself to it. I spent a lot of nights and weekends working because I wanted to — I never felt hemmed in by the work. I also asked a lot of "stupid" questions, and from those questions, many doors were opened. Remember, the worst someone can say is no.
OWP: Do you have any new projects in the works?
AZ: I have several projects stewing — I am working on a collection of M.F.K. Fisher's writings on wine and also developing a few ideas of my own. I'd love to do a book that would bring me back to Oregon — perhaps something about the iconic voices in the Oregon wine industry.
OWP: If Fisher were alive, what one question would you like to ask her?
AZ: M.F.K. Fisher had such an exciting and dramatic life — you can read all about it in my book, “An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher.” There are a million questions to ask. But I'd love to know more about her early love affair with Al Fisher — what was their courtship and proposal like? Did she marry him for love or because she wanted to move to France? I'm dying to know.