A Linfield alumna revealed the life of food writer M.F.K. Fisher during an April 27 author reading in the Nicholson Library.
Anne Zimmerman, class of ’00, wrote a biography of Fisher titled “An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher,” which highlights Fisher’s life when she ventured to France and her relationship struggles with her first husband.
“It’s the story of how she went to France, fell in love with food and found her voice,” Zimmerman said.
She said that although Fisher wrote many autobiographies about herself, there was still a story to write about the author’s life.
“I equate Fisher’s many letters and books to what the rest of us do,” Zimmerman said. “We don’t always tell the whole story. When we write to friends, we say that we’re doing fine. But, in reality, our cat died, our kitchen is a mess and we are having relationship problems with someone.”
Zimmerman said that her book explores the passionate years of Fisher’s life, during which she produced her most popular books.
“I rarely meet people who say that they are familiar with M.F.K. Fisher’s name but haven’t read her work,” Zimmerman said. “Usually, they either don’t know who she is at all or they can tell me where they were when they first read something she wrote.”
Zimmerman said she was introduced to Fisher’s background when she was in graduate school and was assigned to write a 25-page biography of a female author. She said she originally planned to explore Zelda Fitzgerald, but when she arrived at the library, she felt overwhelmed by the amount of books on Fitzgerald.
“The names Fitzgerald and Fisher are right next to each other,” Zimmerman said. “So I picked up a coffee-table style book of photographs of M.F.K. Fisher. I remember just being taken away by her long, dark hair and round face.”
Zimmerman said she picked out a few more books by Fisher and went home to her apartment in San Francisco for the weekend.
“I emerged completely interested in her and the way she wrote,” Zimmerman said.
That weekend, smoky, congested skies from a fire in the area kept Zimmerman confined to her apartment with the books about Fisher, she said.
Zimmerman said she fell in love with Fisher’s writing and completed the biography project on the food writer. Her professor recommended that she explore the subject more because there were few books about Fisherother than a collection of autobiographies Fisher had written.
She said that she eventually contacted Fisher’s former literary agent and met up with him in New York before they decided to write a book proposal together. Zimmerman spent seven years researching Fisher’s life and writing the book before it was published this year.
Zimmerman said that much of her interest in writing and literature was shaped during her time at Linfield through various professors and a study abroad trip to England, France and Spain with Barbara Drake, professor emeritus of English.
She said that she recently unpacked a box of old books and found one by Professor of English Lex Runciman with an inscription to her inside.
“The inscription said, ‘I’m signing this book for you in hopes that you’ll sign one for me someday,’” Zimmerman said. “It was this snapshot into another time when I was taking creative writing classes and didn’t think that I showed any hope.”
Joanna Peterson can be reached at linfieldreviewculture