A hardworking ecologist saved a piece of culinary history amidst the wildfires in Sonoma County this week. Early Monday, flames were encroaching on Last House, the historic home of food writer M. F. K. Fisher in the Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Bouverie Preserve, when the ranch fire ecologist Sasha Berleman stepped in with a team of neighbors and a line of buckets to save the structures.
As ranch spokesperson Wendy Coy recounted to the Chronicle, most of the structures on the ranch were already on fire when Berleman, who lives in Berkeley, arrived Monday morning. She and her ad hoc team of firefighters passed buckets of water from the pool at the residence of David Pleydell-Bouverie next door, separating the two historic homes from a wall of flames.
Pleydell-Bouverie built Last House to Fisher’s design on his Glen Ellen ranch in 1971. By that point, Fisher had enjoyed a writing career that spanned nearly four decades, covering everything from memoir and food literature to wartime advice on how to stretch ingredients or survive during power outages.
Along with a group of like-minded literary enophiles, she founded the Napa Valley Wine Library in the early 1960s as a place to gather her research and writing on the history of California wines. The wine library association now exists as an educational resource for winemakers and budding young sommeliers.
Although she traveled often, Fisher lived on the property until her death in 1992. The Chronicle notes that her personal possessions, including a “signature rattan Peacock chair” and a well-used typewriter, had recently been restored and returned to the residence.