It seems as though I've heard of this book forever and ever. I finally broke down and ordered it after it proved utterly elusive on any thrift store or even library shelf. Originally published in 1942 during WWII and rationing, Ms. Fisher updated the book in 1988 with additional notes included in parenthesis. This is the copy I own, a 1988 copy. Prices on Amazon range from under $3 to upwards of $50. Pick and choose and get a decent copy that will last you a while. It's a darned good read and not just a cookbook. In fact, it's more good read than cookbook though there are recipes included.
Fisher wrote this book during world war bombing blitzes and ration coupons and food shortages. Her title refers to the wolf at the door. Practically she suggests that when the wolf is at the door you invite him in and make dinner of him. And then she goes on to highlight various international recipes that can adapt to a bevy of substitutions and still be good food. She suggests that nutrition be balanced daily overall and to skip the rather illogical practice of trying to balance each meal. As she rightly points out quite often we don't want a fully balanced meal starting with breakfast. In her estimation the day should start out with a pot of hot coffee and a platter of hot toast which one would eat with butter if it's to be had and jam and have all you want. While lunch might well be soup and a salad (encompassing most of the day's vegetable requirements) followed by fresh fruit and supper be a light meal of meat and potato and dessert if you must.
In a way this book is fun reading. In another way, it's really quite sobering especially when you encounter chapters like "How To Make a Great Show" in which you learn how to make your own soap and toothpaste and mouthwash, and "How Not To Be An Earthworm" in which cooking in black out conditions is discussed as well as portable foods to have on hand in case one must evacuate to a bomb shelter.
There are plenty of practical tips in this book and some sobering reminders as in Orchids On Your Budget that life is not always an easy affair with plentiful supplies of foods and monies. Ms. Fisher does instruct those who are truly going hungry how they might manage a practical soup that will fill the hollow places enough. Not full mind you, but enough.
It was a practical reminder to stock pile good basic foods that store well like rice and beans and bouillon cubes, to be mindful of economic and political indicators and to heed the quiet calm voices in the midst of gaiety and chaos that say "Stock up", "Be prepared". And so while I take away from this book the idea that cooking is elegant and fun, as well as necessary, I also take away the idea that life can be awfully harsh at times and while poverty is nothing to be feared it is always as near as the wolf at the door.