Yes, it is crazy, to sit savoring such impossibilities, while headlines yell at you and the wolf whuffs through the keyhole. Yet now and then it cannot harm you, thus to enjoy a short respite from reality. And if by chance you can indeed find some anchovies, or a thick slice of rare beef and some brandy, or a bowl of pink curled shrimps, you are doubly blessed, to possess in this troubled life both the capacity and the wherewithal to forget it for a time. - How to Cook a Wolf, M.F.K. Fisher (1942)
Books have always been my refuge. In times of crisis, when I’m sick, when my natural fount of extroversion finally seeps away, when I end up in an Instagram-hole that makes me question everything from my hairstyle to my purpose in life — the rock bottom moments are when I reach for a book.
This winter has been dark in more ways than one. Waves of ambient fear seem to be drowning all thinking, feeling people. It’s been more difficult than usual to find that precious balance between activism and self-care. Recently, I reached for MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf. Written when The Great Depression was a recent memory and World War II was imminent, it remains a strikingly relevant and useful meditation on how to live — and eat — in uncertain times. I encourage you to read it here.
Undoubtedly, I am “doubly blessed.” And most likely if you’re reading this, you are too. Perhaps take this recipe and for one afternoon, give yourself permission to take a short respite from reality. Pour yourself a simply-made cocktail and make this shrimp paté for a friend or neighbor. It looks and tastes ultra-luxurious but it’s not expensive (use the tiniest shrimp — just make sure they’re fresh!). Serve it spread on baguette, or as part of a crudité platter.
Permit your disciplined inner self to relax, and think of caviar, and thick cream….Close your eyes to the headlines and your ears to sirens and the threatenings of high explosives, and read instead the sweet nostalgia measures of these recipes, impossible yet fond.
M.F.K. Fisher’s Shrimp Paté
adapted by Marisa Dobson
2 pounds fresh shelled cooked shrimp
1/2 of an onion, minced very fine
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, with a little zest
1/4 cup high-quality or homemade mayonnaise
salt, pepper, dry mustard,
whatever other spice you want [I used fresh parsley]
Lightly poach the clean fresh shrimp in salted water and let cool. Decide at the outset whether you want a classic paste-like texture or a rougher country-style paté. If country-style, chop the shrimp by hand until it resembles crabmeat (as photographed). If you’re going classic, toss the shrimp in a food processor. After chopping, you may want to have at it with a potato masher. While mashing, combine it with the minced onion.
Ms. Fisher will lead you through the rest like only she can:
“When you can mash no more, pour in the melted butter, mixing it thoroughly. Add the lemon juice and mayonnaise, and continue to pound it. Season it highly: if you plan to use it within two days use fresh herbs at your discretion…Pack the mixture into a mold, and press it down well. Chill it for at least twelve hours in an icebox. When you are ready to serve, turn it out and slice it thin with a sharp hot knife.”
“Such a paste can be kept for weeks or months, or perhaps even for years, if it contains enough spices and alcohol, is correctly sealed into its mold with coagulated fat, and is kept reasonably cold. Given these three prime benefits, in can be produced when you will, like a mad maiden aunt, or a first edition (in Russian, naturally) of Crime and Punishment.”
It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.
Words of wisdom by Marisa Dobson http://www.marisadobson.com & M.F.K Fisher
Styling by Kate Grewal http://www.kategrewal.com
Space and furniture by Chris Herbert http://www.herbsfurnishings.com
Apron by Odette Williams https://www.odettewilliams.com
Flowers by Mary Ellen LaFreniere http://www.steelcutflowerco.com
Images by Julie Hove Andersen