My Dear Heinrich

It is increasingly rare for Blank to find what he considers well written books of living authors who approach meals from the table rather than from the stove because of shifts in what the populus regards as good writing. “The bulk of modern culinary literature,” says the chef, “is no fun to read. The current crop of writers may be good, but they are so curtailed by editors – who can tell?”

Of favorites who write from the table, three essayists leap from his list; Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, Joseph Wechsberg and Ludwig Bemelmans.

M.F.K. Fisher

“ Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat.”
M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992)

The doyenne of American food writers, M.F.K. Fisher wrote essays that reveal how her independence and sense of place sustained her through six decades of changing countries and husbands.

 

Joseph Wechsberg

“ My dear Heinrich,” the Hofrat said, with a magnificent sweep of his hand, and accentuating every single syllable, “You might just as well have offered me a veal cutlet.”
Joseph Wechsberg (1907-1983)

Wechsberg’s Tafelspitz for the Hofrat is a particular favorite of Blank’s for its depiction of a European world all but gone, a world in which meals are prepared, served and consumed at every point by seasoned connoisseurs. In this short story, Wechsberg contends that traveling Viennese aficionados of the beef cut tafelspitz once carried charts with them to instruct foreign butchers on exactingly specific cuts that do not exist outside the Viennese tradition.

 

Ludwig Bemelmans

“Cheeses Greisd!” ....Ludwig Bemelmans (1898–1962)

In his autobiographical stories, Ludwig Bemelmans often disguises New York’s Ritz-Carlton as a series of fictitious hotels in whose kitchens and banquet halls he adroitly caricatures guests and coworkers. Although The Best of Times is characterized by Bemelmans’ usual sense of the ludicrous, it also portrays a hungry and despondent Europe harrowed by the unprecedented cruelty of World War II.

 

Chef Fritz does not entirely disparage today’s writers. Throughout the year self-published newsletters land on his desk with essays examining every conceivable food topic.

 

Fisher, M.F.K.
A Is for Dining Alone.
Gourmet Magazine.
New York: 1948.

Plagemann, Catherine.
Fine Preserving: M.F.K. Fisher’s Annotated Edition.
Berkeley, CA: Aris Books, 1986.

Hess, Olga and Adolf Hess.
“ Darstellung Einzelner Fleischtücke: Des Rindes”
from Wiener Kuche, Sammlung von Kochrezepten.
Vienna: Franz Deuticke, 1960.

Wechsberg, Joseph.
Blue Trout and Black Truffles: the Peregrinations an Epicure.
Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1985.
On loan from Matthew Rowley.

Blank maintains fat dossiers on thousands of food topics. His encyclopedic file on tafelspitz bulges with notes, clippings and manuscripts.

Tafelspitz Dossier.

Thorne, John and Matt Lewis (eds.).
Simple Cooking, N0. 59.
Northampton, MA: 1998.

Bemelmans, Ludwig.
The Best of Times.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1948.

Mathiesen, Johan (ed.).
Word of Mouth, No. 11.
Portland, OR: 1996
.

Behr, Edward (ed.).
The Art of Eating, No. 39.
Peacham, VT: 1996.

Oliver, S. L. (ed.).
Food History News, Vol. IX, No. IV.
Isleboro, ME: 1998
.

Goldberg, Dan (ed.).
The Curmudgeon’s Home Companion, Vol. 9, No. 5.
Yountville, CA: 2001

Home | Exhibit Introduction | A Chef and His Library | Someone's in the Kitchen with Fritz | Standing in the Stockpots of Giants

Great Composers | Victus Populi | A Fine Mess | My Dear Heinrich | Cattail City | May I Take Your Menu? | Guten Appetit

Acknowledgements | Fritz Blank Biography

© 2002 University of Pennyslvanian Library Trustees