8 July 2011

M.F.K Fisher Prepares "Socca" Through the Written Word


Thank you for joining me once again as I travel along with Mary of One Perfect Bite on an amazing culinary journey.  Gourmet Live brought out a list of the 50 most influential women in food...Fifty women game changers. Some are chefs, some are food writers, and some are women who are passionate about the creative process. You could certainly add or detract women from this list, but no matter what these women have all influenced us in one way or another. Being a woman and passionate about food myself I wanted to explore and join Mary on this journey and not only learn from the masters but recreate some of their dishes to better understand what has shaped and molded them into who they are today. In doing so I have learned more about myself, new techniques and many lessons previously unimaginable. Follow us on this journey while we take an in depth exploration of these women's lives and what makes them who they are.

 For 50 weeks we will experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list". Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty it will be an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters. My cohorts for this adventure can be found below. If you would like to join in  please contact Mary. This is an informal event and you have the flexibility to follow along when you can. She will be posting every Friday.

"First we eat, then we do everything else."
— M.F.K. Fisher

Our 5th Game Changer Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher was an American food writer born in 1908, but what a food writer she was! Her books are not really cookbooks, but food for her was the door into the world of memory, emotion, and experience. She was arguably one of the great nonfiction writers of the 20th century. The fact that she chose to write mainly about food endeared her to my heart just as she will yours. From an early age much of what I know about living well, let alone food and cooking I learned from reading her books long before food blogging and perhaps even before I even knew of my passion for food.

She is the writer that we aspire to become where she weaves the written word and a zest for life that are so intertwined that she is unable to take a breath without the other. In her books she did not view food analytically or scientifically with measurements and recipes but instead, you are introduced to food as a source of pleasure and a welcome addition to the art of enjoying friends, family and every day life.

She has written about food in her books that makes you swoon and want to read more. Her descriptions and prose make you want to either leap up and get into the kitchen to taste the food with all 5 senses or sit down and immerse yourself in reading about "gems of the foodie kind" for a few more hours. She led an engaging life and could make even the mundane sound like poetry. You are buoyed by her lyrical phrases, by her images of far away and exotic places, by nearly indescribable tastes and odours. With books like How to Cook a Wolf, The Art of Eating and so many more it was said she paints with words, not oil paints. Such a writer I could only pretend to be.

"She "had neither health nor companionship to warm her, but she nourished herself and many other people for many years, with the quiet assumption that man's need for food is not a grim obsession, repulsive, disturbing, but a dignified and even enjoyable function." To read Fisher on the subject of eating is to enter a familiar world waiting pleasantly to be rediscovered."  - CATE
Her daughter Kennedy Wright said, "In a career spanning more than 60 years, Mrs. Fisher wrote hundreds of stories for The New Yorker, as well as 15 books of essays and reminiscences. She produced the enduring English translation of Brillat-Savarin's book "The Physiology of Taste," as well as a novel, a screenplay, a book for children and dozens of travelogues. While other food writers limited their writing to the particulars of individual dishes or expositions of the details of cuisine, Mrs. Fisher used food as a cultural metaphor."
When deciding what to make for this weeks challenge I was reminded of her description of preparing ratatouille or beef stew. But for me the cornerstone of every meal is a good slice of homemade bread. M.K. Fisher says, "The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight... " I decided to make socca, a chickpea flat bread, to accompany another meal from another "game changer" on the list coming up in a future post.
Socca is a traditional French flat bread from Provence which  is very simple and easy to make, although it may take some practice for me to get it just right. Modern ovens and implements can replace the wood ovens and copper plaques of days gone by but with no French grand mere to guide me I had only words from the author herself. Martha Stewart says these fall somewhere in between a crepe and a flat bread, but recipes I have seen call it a ni├žoise-style flat bread. Socca is made with garbanzo (chick pea) flour, olive oil, water and fresh herbs, and cooked over a hot griddle. The next time I think I would prefer to make them paper thin, sprinkled with sea salt and served in wedges along with Mediterranean influenced dips and sauces, but many people make them thicker and use them as wraps for fillings.
"There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk."
— M.F.K. Fisher
"(Making bread) is pleasant: one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony," she writes. "It leaves you filled with peace, and the house filled with one of the world's sweetest smells. But it takes a lot of time. If you can find that, the rest is easy. And if you cannot rightly find it, make it, for probably there is no chiropractic treatment, no yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread." -  M.F.K. Fisher (The Art of Eating)
Here’s Fisher’s description of how she makes socca. Below you will find a recipe, since every good dish really does begin with a recipe idea. Going on holidays forces me to look ahead and also be practical when reflecting on these creative women. I want to thank Mary for taking us on this journey which has opened my eyes to not only the importance of these women in our lives but to reflect on what we have learned from each by sheer osmosis.

“When I make socca at home, I take equal parts of water and chickpea flour (about one cup each), two tablespoons of olive oil, and one tablespoon of salt. Then I beat it hard — you’ve got to beat the hell out of it, really — and, since there are always a few lumps, I pour it through a sieve onto an oiled 1-inch-deep cookie sheet. I put it in the middle of a really hot oven, preheated to 500 degrees, then I turn on the broiler. It goes very fast, only a few minutes, but you have to keep your eye on it and use a long fork to prick the big bubbles as they form. It should go right from oven to table.”  - A Stew or a Story by M. F. K. Fisher.

**Socca (Chickpea Flatbread)**
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  •  Freshly ground black pepper (optional)   
1.Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet with a 1-inch rim.

2.Mix together all the ingredients and beat well for several minutes. Pour the batter through a sieve onto the oiled cookie sheet, discarding any lumps.

3.Place the sheet on the middle rack of the oven and turn on the broiler. The flat bread should cook in just a few minutes, so keep an eye on it; prick big bubbles as they form.

4.When done, remove from the oven, slice with a pizza cutter, and serve immediately, with freshly ground black pepper if you like.

What have we been up to.......

 Mary of One Perfect Bite - Bucket Bread
Joanne of Eats Well With Others - be back next week
Claudia of A Seasonal Cook in Turkey - Ratatouille
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed -
Susan - The Spice Garden - Peas and New Potatoes, Spicy Wok Shrimp with Coconut Rice
Heather of Girlichef - Tomato Soup Cake
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney - Frittata of Zucchini
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living -
April of Abbys Sweets - be back next week
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud - Chilled Chocolate Pudding

What did I learn: Before this post I had never heard of a traditional socca or chickpea flatbread from Provence. The greats like Julia Child and Martha Stewart all had recipes in their cookbooks. Ms. Fisher inspired me to try it, my promise to myself is to try and perfect it.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison Best Blogger Tips


  1. You always have such great ideas..I really love this one..:)
    Tasty Appetite

  2. What a wonderful tribute, Val. You've selected a wonderful recipe to highlight her work and your own words, today, are very eloquent. Take care. Blessings...Mary

  3. What an in depth post..You went to so much care!

  4. Thank you for providing us with so much history from M. F. K. Fisher and for really showing us how inspirational she has been. Your socca look delicious, and I learned about a new recipe I didn't know excited!

  5. Socca is so delicious! I really love making that speciality. Yours looks scrumptious.



  6. I had not heard of this recipe either and you have inspired me to try it. Wonderful tribute - I learn a little more from each blogger!

  7. Beautifully written post, Val...MFKF would be proud =) I'd never heard of Socca before, either...but guess what? I totally want to try some now. Thanks so much for introducing me =)

  8. Like many, I am a big MKFK fan. Such a sensuous woman with such a feel for good food. Oh, to write like she did! A beautiful tribute. And I'm glad to have learned about Socca. Wonderful tribute. Can't wait for more!

  9. Vall I really love this!!! huggs, gloria

  10. healthy delicious bread looks wonderful

  11. Wow! For some reason I got it into my head that socca is more focaccia-like! I really need to try this!

  12. I'm really loving these 50 women entries.

  13. Wonderful post Val. MFKF has always been one of my idols. Now I have to try the socca. Well done and I want to be a part of your group.

  14. I am loving this series and really like this recipe.

  15. The first time I tasted socca was in the market in Nice. I fell in love right away and have always said I would try to make my own, but never got any further than buying the chickpea flour, which remains on my shelf, unopened. You've inspired me to try your recipe. Thanks Val.

  16. i am so making that flatbread! man that sounds amazing.

  17. I could just say "ditto" to Sam's comment.

    I loved it when I first tried it in Nice and, when passing through Nice again several years later, all I could think of was making my way to the market to have it again!

  18. I love this series that you're doing with Mary, and I look forward to learning more each week from all of you who are participating. Just reading this tonight made me want to make that socca!

  19. Hey Val,
    This is a lovely tribute to Mary. I had only learned about her last fall when I took Monica Bhide's food writing course. She is an inspiring writer who brings you right in to the world of food that we all are a part of each day. I would love to try this socca! Will report back when I do! Have a wonderful weeekend. I love your blog! Bonnie (roomie >: )

  20. I felt as though I was following a food historian through a journey of their passion with food.

  21. Wonderful post. This was a fabulous introduction to a bread I knew nothing about. It really makes me want to make it for myself.
    *kisses* HH

  22. What a fun event - I have to investigate further... Lovely post ans, as to the bread, I live in France and have been looking for chickpea flour forever... I keep finding recipes, but not the flour!

  23. Lovely post! We are visiting friends and then my cousin in Provence in September and I plan to ask them what they know about socca! I have never heard of it before. But a wonderful woman MFK sounds, doesn't she? I want her books!

  24. I always enjoy your series. You come up with such exceptional themes!

  25. So neat to see another bread preparation! She really loved simple basic foods didn't she? I would love to have been a travelling companion to her! She witnessed and took in so many wonderful cultures and was so eloquent in her descriptions of the foods she chose to bring away from her travels! This is a beautiful post!

  26. HI Val - really enjoyed this post, learning about socca and more about Ms. Fisher. Thank you. Very inspiring.


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