Unexpected Lagniappes

Since Andy is taking over the blog today, and I’m taking over Andy’s Corner, I’m struggling a bit to blend the two – as Andy so effortlessly does. 🙂 However, I just picked up our copy of How to Cook a Wolf and voila – in the chapter on “How to Make a Pigeon Cry,” Fisher writes, “it is nice indeed, these days, to have generous friends who live in the country and send you unexpected lagniappes!”

Lagniappe! One of my favorite words – leftover from our 26 years in Baton Rouge. And to think MFK Fisher used it too. And to think I opened the book to that page. Cosmic coincidence?

Sounds like an interesting book! Can’t help but wonder if Kittie could be related to my dear Louisiana Howard family.

The pronunciation, as some of you have asked? LAN-YAP (lan as in land).

The meaning? A little something extra – or an unexpected gift

The origin? It dates back to Louisiana’s Spanish Colonial time and is derived from the South American Spanish phrase la yapa or Ă±apa (and, in case you’re interested, our adjoining county, Napa, does not share that same derivation. That “Napa” apparently comes from one of Northern California’s indigenous people, the Wappo, and meant “motherland”).

An example of lagniappe? When we picked up our last dozen eggs from our “egg ladies,” Sandy and Stacey, a jar of Nut-N-Other Sprouted Almond Butter was waiting for us too. Sandy and Stacey, generous themselves, also – like MFK Fisher – have “generous friends who live in the country” and the friends’ small business, Nut-N-Other Farms, grows and sells sustainably-produced little specialties – like almond flour and fresh eggs (from free-range chickens) and walnuts (from unsprayed trees). A surprise, a little lagniappe, is so “right on!” during this pandemic.

My lagniappe for today’s blog….my little something extra…is sharing a personal MFK Fisher story from my Oakmont (via Colorado, of course) friend Sharon.

Memories of M.F.K. Fisher:

Many years ago, before we moved to Sonoma County, I worked for a small literary press in Berkeley called North Point Press.  We had a very impressive list of authors, and MFK Fisher was among them.  I confess to not having  heard of her before I worked at North Point, but at that time most of her books were out of print.  One of the things that North Point did was bring good books back into print.  As soon as I discovered her I became a huge fan.

 I remember being very nervous the first time I called her.  She was quite serious and somewhat intimidating.   Eventually our conversations were easy and pleasant, although always professional.

Every spring, Mary Frances invited our small staff to a picnic at her home in Glen Ellen, which she called Last House.  David Pleydell-Bouverie built the house to her specifications on his ranch, which is now the Bouverie Preserve.  She was in her 70’s when she moved in and lived there until she died at the age of 84 of Parkinson’s disease.  It was basically a two room house – one large room was a combination living/dining/kitchen/workspace, the other was a large bedroom.  The walls were covered floor to ceiling with paintings and photos. Those visits were pure magic for me. Just thinking of all the famous people who had walked through those doors to visit, cook and dine was exciting.  The throne-like chair that she was so often pictured in, frequently with her Siamese cat, Charlie, was there, along with Charlie himself.  Imagine being in the kitchen of M.F.K. Fisher, pulling out serving plates, wine glasses, etc.!  

One year I arrived late.  The rest of the group had gone for a hike, so I was able to spend time alone with Mary Frances, whose hiking days were over.   We talked about our love of books, food, art, and Siamese cats.  The last picnic we had was when Mary Frances’ disease was taking a toll.  She was bedridden then, and only two or three of us at a time were allowed to go in to see her for just a few minutes. 

Little did I know then that within a few years, my husband and I would move to Glen Ellen, very close to Last House.  Now I often drive by going to or from Sonoma.  I can never resist looking over at it and remembering the good times we had there.

If Andy and I have got you intrigued with Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher’s writing and life, we recommend you also read The Gastronomical Me, a collection of her essays, published in 1943, a year after How to Cook a Wolf was published.

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