Setting the Stage

24 May

I’m enjoying Fisher’s common-sense (sage) approach to dealing with deprivation. She obviously loved food and was alarmed that the US government’s focus on balanced meals and nutrition (which she thought was important but not a numbers game) would take all the enjoyment out of eating just when the simple pleasures and comforts of food would be most necessary. Guidelines as hemlock, if you will. Yet, having endured rationing during WWI, she knew the danger of going hungry and offered multiple ways (and recipes!–more on those another day) to be thrifty and still make foods fun.

M.F.K. Fisher

Author's photo from the back of the 1942 edition of How to Cook a Wolf

Fisher received copyright for How to Cook a Wolf on May 22, 1942 when she was 33 years old and already widowed by her second husband (see image below from the Library of Congress Catalog of Copyright Entries listing her as Mary F. K. Fisher Parrish).

The book was written in the days following the US’s official entry into World War II and appeared on the shelves just a few weeks after sugar rationing began in the United States (rationing of sugar had begun on May 4th). It must have been a popular publication.

Ration Book One for sugar and, later, shoes and coffee.

Original image housed by Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University.

Despite the Depression and the Lend-Lease Act, food was still relatively plentiful especially when compared to Europe which had been enduring the war for years already. But she understood that food shortages would probably be appearing soon. Or, the “wolf” might appear in another guise: not enough money to buy food even if there was food to be had. Indeed, the US government took steps to stop inflation in April 1942 by setting maximum prices for goods. There must have been a lingering fear of hyperinflation like that experienced in Germany post-WWI when money was worthless and it was nearly impossible to buy food.


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