A collection of culinary vignettes; As They Were, by M. F. K. Fisher. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $13.95.
This book is a marvelous collection of culinary vignettes by a woman who has a special talent for writing rare and magical scenes and reflections.
When M. F. K. Fisher writes about food, she is at the same time writing about life and living, about herself, and, yes, also about food.
She seems to be able to integrate recipes with prose in quite a different way than anyone else. Perhaps food is the catalyst for her very personal essays, written over five decades and covering a varied spectrum of experiences around the world. But probably not.
This new book is a collection of pieces, some old, some new, that tell of her growing up in Whittier, Calif. - of such things as her delight as a child in ''the wonderland of quiet elegance,'' of a Los Angeles ice cream parlor and the grandeur of the Mission Inn beyond the neighboring hills and vineyards.
She takes us on a tour of the French countryside in the piece ''Two Kitchens in Provence,'' telling about the place where she spent several summer months with her two little girls.
There she gathered eggs every day from angry hens, and the girls found a tree covered with pigment they identified as from the palette of the artist Cezanne, and they ate outdoors in wonderful weather.
Her writing is a blend of culture, lore, and scholarship with a sense of humor.
Mrs. Fisher discusses gastronomy in what she calls a noncook book, and it seems to me a time to look at all her other books again or for the first time.