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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

October 09, 1994|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

M.F.K. FISHER, JULIA CHILD, AND ALICE WATERS: Celebrating the Pleasures of the Table by Joan Reardon (Harmony Books: $25; 320 pp.) One of the reasons that books about the great chefs are so appealing is that we suspect they are onto something essential and unwavering--some last principle governing the basic enjoyment of life. These three women, all rooted in some ways (by birth or preference) to both California and France, enriched so many lives with their writing and cooking. Fisher and Child were very good friends; Waters knew Fisher better than Child. And they admired each other; Fisher said of Waters' restaurant in Berkeley (Chez Panisse) that it was "the best food that she had eaten in America . . . in a public place I mean." Child, raised in Pasadena, discovered her passion while traveling all over the world with her diplomat husband. Fisher discovered her passion in France with her first husband, although memories of peach pies and other foods in her home town of Whittier are certainly part of her culinary inspiration. Waters, originally from New Jersey, discovered her gift for food after being active in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, and working on Robert Scheer's 1966 congressional campaign. These are fierce women; fiercely independent, fiercely capable, fiercely loyal and generous. The meal from this particular book that I will someday try to copy took place at Fisher's house in Glen Ellen. Child and her husband were there. They had mounds of Dungeness crab, some sourdough bread, good butter and a light white wine. Most probably, it cannot be recaptured.

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