Sonoma County Book Festival’s Windrush Farm benefit features columnist Michele Anna Jordan in conversation with author Anne Zimmerman on writer M.F.K Fisher, Sunday, August 21, 2011
Every August, in preparation for the Sonoma County Book Festival in September, now in its 12th year, there is a delightful benefit at Mimi Luebbermann’s rustic Windrush Farm in West Petaluma. This Sunday, August 21, 2011, from 2 pm to 5 pm, local author and columnist Michele Anna Jordan will be in conversation with Anne Zimmerman, author of An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher (Counterpoint, 2010, 261 pages, $26). In addition to lively conversation, the afternoon will feature gourmet wood-fired pizza served straight from Mimi’s outdoor oven, an oyster bar, Sonoma County wines and an “Everybody Wins” raffle where everyone will take home a great book.
“I love the opportunity to talk about Mary Frances,” said Michele Anna Jordan. “A lot of people don’t know her any more, which is a shame. She’s tremendously misunderstood in today’s world, where food has become passive entertainment. I was happy to discover Zimmerman. She takes a look at M.F.K. Fisher’s first five books and does a fairly close reading of them. She adds her own very personal story, which shows why M.F.K. Fisher had such an appeal to her at the time.”
“Fisher always bristled at being called a food writer─she was a writer,” added Jordan. “In those first five books, you see her at the height of her powers—her passion for life and for writing. She was driven to write by her own muse, not by economic need. There was a lot of heartbreak, too, which was the unspoken foundation for all of these first books, and our conversation will explore that.”
For those who aren’t aware, M.F.K. Fisher also had close ties to Northern, California. In 1972, at the age of sixty-three, after decades of extensive travel that took her all over the world, she moved into a home designed by architect David Bouverie that was situated on his 535-acre Glen Ellen ranch (today’s Bouverie Preserve). She lived there for the next two decades, writing prolifically from a cabin that she called “Last House.” She welcomed frequent guests—famous and not famous– whom she loved entertaining in a low-key, pitch-in-and-help style. Julia Child, James Beard, Alice Waters, Anne Lamott, Herb Caen, and Maya Angelou all visited and Bill Moyers filmed his PBS interview with her there.
It is the early years and Fisher’s love and knowledge of food and passion that Ann Zimmerman focuses on in An Extravagant Hunger. “No matter her location or level of emotional anguish, she always noticed the meal in front of her,” Zimmerman writes. From her first salad on the rumbling train into Paris, to the inky wines that swayed in her glass on [a ship called] the Cellina, the colors and flavors of great food and wine brought her incomparable pleasure.”
“This event at Mimi’s is always a special treat,” said JJ Wilson, one of the co-founders of the festival, a co-founder of The Sitting Room: A Community Library, a retired Sonoma State University Professor Emeritus, and a literary tour de force. “There’s amazing food and there’s always a discussion about a great new book. People have stopped reading M.F.K. Fisher and that’s too bad because she’s not dated. She is a wonderful stylist and writer and she so is quotable and that’s one of the joys of reading Anne Zimmerman’s book. She takes so much from Fisher and she had access to a lot of materials—her letters and so forth– that weren’t available to others. This resulted in a fascinating book─it’s like the very best gossip. That’s not a very high-minded way to put it, but this is very good and totally fascinating inside information.”
The “Everybody Wins” Raffle, a fundraiser for the festival, is expected to be quite popular. $10 automatically gets an entrant any book from an outstanding selection of new or gently used books. Culled from the personal collections of avid readers on the Book Festival Steering committee, these books include best sellers from Lorrie Moore, Abraham Verghese, Yiyun Li, Stieg Larsson and others. In addition to the book, the $10 gets the entrant a raffle ticket to win one of these terrific prizes:
— A copy of guest speaker Anne Zimmerman’s book, An Extravagant Hunger
— Lunch for two at the popular Dierk’s Parkside Cafe in Santa Rosa
— A bucket of seeds from the Petaluma Seed Bank supplied by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
Raffle tickets are $10 each or 3 for $20.
The Windrush fundraiser menu seems to get better every year. Wood-fired pizzas made with farm-fresh local organic produce will be assembled and baked by Mimi Luebbermann and her team of volunteers. There will be an oyster bar, with oysters from Tamales Bay Oyster Company, and champagne. A cheese board will feature Joe Matos’ famous St. George Azores-style cheese made on his Santa Rosa farm. Windsor Vineyards has provided two cases of wines for the event and Lagunitas Brewery, of Petaluma, has donated its popular beer. Dessert is Michele Anna Jordan’s own elegant creation, “Honeydew in Absinthe, with Fresh Mint.” (recipe provided below for ARThound readers)
Sonoma County Book Festival: This year’s Sonoma County Book Festival is September 24, 2011 and it sponsored by The Literary Arts Guild, a Sonoma County non-profit dedicated to the arts. The book festival is the main literary event in Sonoma County and, every September, for one glorious afternoon, it transforms Santa Rosa’s sleepy downtown square into a glorious hub for readers. “What it really is, is a fashion show for books,” explained of JJ Wilson. “It’s a way of drawing attention to the joys of literacy and, while it’s not in our mission statement, we want to keep these few remaining independent book stores in Sonoma County alive. This gives them a platform from which to meet readers, to sell books and to remind people that they are there. The goal is to get people to read. Sadly, we are the only book festival left in Northern, CA.”
This year’s festival will feature a mix of local writers and big-name draws like Ann Packer, Belva Davis, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jane Hirshfield. There are readings, presentations, book-signings, and panel discussions—including the ever popular panel discussions for mystery book writing and writing for film and stage. Megan McDonald, author of the Judy moody books, is the headliner for an amazing line-up of children’s programming that includes storytellers, marionettes, and a Secret Agent Jack Stalwart Treasure Hunt. There will be over 100 booths and exhibits focused on small and independent booksellers and publishers too. Visit http://www.socobookfest.org for a schedule of the days’ events and more information.
Hungry to start reading? If you haven’t read Fisher yet, Jordan recommends starting with The Gastronomical Me. “It’s Fisher at her height and the essence of who she was as a writer, said Jordan. “It covers her early experiences in California and life in France in the 1930’s and all her exploits─passionate and powerful.” Readers’ Books, of Sonoma, will be selling copies of Zimmerman’s book, An Extravagant Hunger, and an assortment of books by M.F.K. Fisher at the event on Sunday.
Details: Mimi Luebbermann’s Windrush Farm, 2263 Chileno Valley Rd., Petaluma
Sunday, August 21, 2011, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets: $40; children 12 and under are free.
Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets and can be purchased (cash or check only) on Sunday at Windrush Farm.
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