Sparkling collections and anthologies; Food writer's exquisite essays; As They Were, by M. F. K. Fisher. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 261 pp. $13.95.

Here is a gathering of eloquent and delightful essays by the renowned ''food writer'' who is in fact a brilliant stylist with a far wider range of subjects than has been realized. Fisher at her best is a discriminating observer and phrasemaker; a connoisseur of the sensuousness deep down in things, and a grateful celebrant of places where she's lived, or dined, or only passed through.

There's an elegiac strain in Fisher's remembrances of her sojourns in Europe, ''between wars, between worlds, breathing the golden autumn air as if it would be there forever.'' We feel her intentness to make us see those ''Two Kitchens in Provence,'' or that quintessence of railway stations, the Gare de Lyon. But she's equally adept at describing her childhood, some 70 years ago, in Whittier, Calif., or the experiencing of a Long Island blizzard, or her ''small gem'' of a house in northern California and its beloved furnishings (such as her ''big purple bedspread woven by witches in Haiti'').

Retain and remember things, and they will endure: That may be the message of these exquisitely crafted essays.

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