Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

FAMOUS FOOD WRITER M.F.K. FISHER WAS BORN IN ALBION

Albion Recorder, Monday July 2, 1998, pg. 4

Albion has been the home to several famous persons who achieved great successes in life, as our readers probably learned in my series about Gwendolyn Dew a few weeks ago.

Another famous person who had connections with the Albion Recorder was one of this country’s greatest food writers, M. F. K. Fisher. Shortly after the turn of the century in 1904, brothers Rex and Walter Kennedy came to Albion to purchase and run the Recorder, which had just turned daily. Rex was editor, and Walter served as manager. Walter by the way was an accomplished football player who received his training under the legendary Alonzo Stagg at Chicago University. Walter coached football at Albion College between 1904 and 1920, but that is another story.

Rex Kennedy lived at 202 Irwin Avenue, the house presently occupied by former Albion Public Schools English teacher Edith Potts. On July 3, 1908, Rex’s wife Edith gave birth to their daughter, Mary Frances Kennedy. In a letter written to us, Mary related the details of her birth: "I was born there in Albion in 1908, delivered at home by "Doc" George Hafford, a man my parents Rex and Edith Kennedy were devoted to. Rex was then one of the volunteer firemen, and since I was born in a heat wave, he persuaded his pals to come several times and spray the walls of the house. My father Rex was sure I would be born on July 4, and he wanted to name me Independencia. My mother Edith was firmly against this completely un-Irish notion, and induced Doc Hafford to hurry things up a bit, in common pity.

Rex sold his interest in the Recorder to his brother Walter in 1911 and moved from Albion. He eventually settled in Whittier California. Rex became editor of the Whittier News and served in that position for 42 years. He died in June, 1953. Walter of course continued with the Recorder for many years, selling it to Jack C. Bedient in 1939.

Our focus however is upon Rex’s daughter Mary who became known as the greatest food writer of our time, and was the author of 27 books. She was known as M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1993) in the literary world, and some of her masterpieces included: How to Cook a Wolf (a reference to World War II rationing); Consider the Oyster, The Cooking of Provincial France, Serve it Forth, an Alphabet for Gourmets, The Gastronomical Me, and others. Her articles frequently appeared in The New Yorker and Gourmet magazines for many years. Her best known work was published in 1949, a translation of the 1825 book "The Physiology of Taste."

William Shawn, former editor of The New Yorker, and she was a writer who seemed to value style above substance. He wrote that she was one of the great American writers. Fans loved her intensely and critics praised her lavishly. W. H. Auden once called her the best prose writer in America. Food expert Julia Child once noted that more people were reading M.F.K. Fisher and taking her work on gastronomy quite seriously.

Through her many years of successes and prominence in the field of food expertise, M.F.K. Fisher still kept in contact with her family’s Albion friends who visited her home in California on numerous occasions. In a letter M.F.K. Fisher wrote to yours truly in 1985 she stated, "I have nothing but good memories of the town where I was born in1908. I hope to return some day to make new ones."

Unfortunately, she never fulfilled that dream to return to her home town. M.F.K. Fisher died on Monday June 22, 1992 at her home in Glen Ellen, California at the age of 83. This writer had the honor to correspond with M.F.K. Fisher several times before her death. I was even able to surprise her with a photograph of herself at age 2, standing on the front porch of her 202 Irwin Avenue home.

Since her death, M.F.K.’s memoris entitled, "To Begin Again" was published. The Albion Public Library Local History Room has a copy of this book. Albion is mentioned in the chapter "Native Truths 1908-1952." The Library also has copies of other M.F.K. Fisher books.

This week we present a photograph of M.F.K. Fisher, the famous American food writer who was born in Albion and a photograph of the house at 202 Irwin Avenue where she was born. I feel that this location could be eligible as a State of Michigan Historic Site and worthy of a green Michigan plaque entitled "Birthplace of M.F.K. Fisher." Would some local group like to take on the project of seeing that an historical marker is placed here?


M.F.K. Fisher


M.F.K. Fisher Home, 202 Irwin

Next: ALBION ONCE HAD ITS OWN FAIR AND FAIRGROUNDS


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