Hungry for the wolf

Illustration By Mark Stivers

M.F.K. Fisher is best known for lyrical writing on gastronomical pleasures, particularly those of being an American in France between the wars. But one of my favorites of her books, How to Cook a Wolf (1942), is written very much as an American in America during World War II. A meditation on living and eating well and graciously through poverty and shortages, it’s a period piece, with tips on stocking a blackout shelf and recipes like an eggless “war cake” or “sludge.” The latter, from the grim chapter “How to Keep Alive,” comprises whole grains, vegetables and “fifteen cents’ worth of ground beef from a reputable butcher.” The current war has certainly provoked no rationing, yet whenever I reread How to Cook a Wolf, I find a recipe or a tip I can use (I’ve earmarked the war cake for tea with vegan friends). Even with our embarrassment of plenty, we can all economize on the home front.