How to Cook a Wolf
North Point Press, 1988
Originally published by World Publishing, 1942
This is no mere ‘how to be economical during tough-times’ book. Originally written during World War 2 in the midst of ration books and shortages of basic necessities, MFK Fisher writes about keeping the wolf, or hunger and/or debt collectors, at the door and still living a rich life.
There’s a whining at the threshold,
There’s a scratching at the floor.
To work! To work! In heaven’s name!
The wolf is at the door!
-C. P. S. Gilman
• How to Catch the Wolf – “It is all a question of weeding out what you yourself like best to do, so that you can live most agreeably in a world full of an increasing number of disagreeable surprises.” Pg 13
o The country doesn’t have to be at war (which we sort of are) for humans to figure out that they can live well even with little. It is all really about a mindset or way of thinking.
• How to Rise Up Like New Bread – “Perhaps this war will make it simpler for us to go back to some of the old ways we knew before we came over to this land and made the Big Money. Perhaps, even, we will remember how to make good bread again.” pg 75
o Humans are spoiled rotten in this country. They have fast food that they pick up from the windows of their cars – I know this because my human brings home delicious smelling food all the time; my favorite is the place that used to have a Chihuahua as a mascot. When we had that horrible lizard in the house, mom would go to that all chicken place to get carrot salad for the beast. But if my mom would not go by all those fast food places and do some real cooking we would all eat better!
• How to Carve the Wolf –“Why is it worse, in the end, to see an animal’s head cooked and prepared for our pleasure than a thigh or a tail or a rib? If we are going to live on other inhabitants of this world we must not bind ourselves with illogical prejudices, but savor to the fullest the beasts we have killed.” Pg 103
o I included this quote because as long as it isn’t a cat’s head that is being cooked I’m all for every part of the animal!
• How to Have a Sleek Pelt – “Myself, as I have always said, (and practiced) that I would never give a dog or a cat what I would not eat myself.” Pg 149
o It is a sad thing in a bad economy that humans give up their pets because they can’t afford to feed them. Don’t they know we can live off of the leavings from their plates? It may not be too healthy in the long term but in the short term, at least until the human can get ahold of some chicken necks or even pig’s feet we’ll be fine. We may not eat it at first because we are spoiled, too. But if we get hungry enough, we will. Humans! Please do not give up your pets because you think you can’t afford us! We can be of great comfort to you during lean times.
• How to Be a Wise Man – “If, with the wolf at the door, there is not very much to eat, the child should know it, but not oppressively. Rather, he should be encouraged to savor every possible bite with one eye on its agreeable nourishment and the other on its fleeting but valuable esthetic meaning, so that twenty years later, maybe, he can think with comfortable delight of the little brown toasted piece of bread he ate with you once in 1942, just before that apartment was closed, and you went away to camp.” Pg 165
o If you are going through lean times, then the whole household needs to be involved. Even the kids – both human and furry! For my mom, feeding four cats and 1 dog is expensive. But if she gives us a home cooked meal once or twice a week her expenses will probably be reduced. (I have a feeling there’s a chicken neck in my future!)
I really liked reading this book. It is full of old-fashioned recipes and colorful writing. My overall impression is that if you’re just looking for a cook book, don’t look here. For every recipe is a story, a quip or thoughts relating to it. But if you are looking for a book of economical tips and hints as well as insight into wartime America (WW2 specifically) that also happens to have some recipes included, this book is for you. And it proves you can live a rich and full life with little money if you are willing to work at it!
Rating: 4 paws for a glimpse into the past in a really cool way! (Plus eating other animals, mmmm!)
M. F. K. Fisher portrait by Annie Leibovitz
Other books by M. F. K. Fisher