Saturday, December 6, 2014

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin

"... an unstuffed turkey is like a jigsaw puzzle of the American flag with a piece missing right in the middle."  
- from "Stuffing: A Confession" in Home Cooking  by Laurie Colwin 

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin
Open Road Media, 2014
(originally published, 1988)
193 pages
source: publisher via NetGalley for review consideration


For two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I am obsessed with the meal... to brine or not to brine, twice baked or mashed, how many sides, will four pies suffice, etc. Never mind the logistics of fitting everyone around the table or what time dinner should be served.

As I fussed with recipes, shopping, and planning, Laurie Colwin was like an old friend whose quiet presence reassured me it would all turn out just fine. During this time, I was too preoccupied to read much, but her short essays were the perfect diversion. I made time to read a few every evening.

 By 21st century standards, the essays in Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen  certainly feel dated, but Colwin's warmth and personality shine through, so I didn't mind one bit.

And that's really the point, anyway. We no longer discuss whether stuffing belongs inside the bird, but our feelings behind the stuffing are timeless. Doesn't every family take pride in their  special stuffing recipe?

Colwin, a prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, died suddenly in 1992 when she was only 48 years old. Last month Open Road Media released her work in ebook format, making it possible for a new generation of digital readers to discover her talent.

I hope they do.


More Quotes:
"... when the chips are down, the spirit is exhausted and the body hungry, the same old thing is a great consolation. When people who must provide meals are too tired to think of what to cook, those old standbys come to the rescue. They are things a person can cook half asleep."
- from "The Same Old Thing" 
"..this implies that I do not like to eat al fresco. No sane person does, I feel. When it is nice enough for people to eat outside, it is also nice enough for mosquitoes, horse and deer flies, as well as wasps and yellow jackets."
- from How to Avoid Grilling 
"A long time ago it occurred to me that when people are tired and hungry, which in adult life is much of the time, they do not want to be confronted by an intellectually challenging meal; they want to be consoled.
      When life is hard and the day has been long, the ideal dinner is not four perfect courses, each in a lovely pool of sauce whose ambrosial flavors are like nothing ever before tasted, but rather something comforting and savory, easy on the digestion -- something that makes one feel, if even only for a minute, that one is safe."
- from "Nursery Food"


Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

24 comments:

  1. I love the quote about people wanting food that comforts them when things are tough. I think that's so true! It's when things in life are calm that I like to get creative with cooking.

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    1. Melissa - The same is true for me. Cooking is a great creative outlet, but I tend to return to those recipes I can cook while "half asleep" when the going gets tough.

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  2. I hadn't heard of Colwin when I picked this up but I enjoyed this one and am definitely looking forward to trying more of her work. Glad you enjoyed it as well!

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    1. Katherine - I've never read her fiction, but think I'll give it a try!

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  3. Isn't it funny how quickly recipes (or food ideas) become dated? When I was reading a diary from the 1980s, the writer was talking about balsamic vinegar as something so new and exotic. The thing I felt most in reading these was how much I liked her (her writing, but her herself too).

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    1. Audrey - Food trends can be even more strange than high fashion. I remember laughing with a couple other bloggers about our old editions of Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks... some very funny stuff in them that would never fly today!

      Colwin's personalty and warmth definitely keep people reading her so many years after her death.

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  4. I love her. I used to read her articles in gourmet (or was it Bon Appetit?). I was so sorry when she died because I love her writing. How great that she will stay in print.

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    1. Beth F - I'm pretty sure she wrote for Gourmet. So glad Open Road Media has released her work as ebooks.

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  5. Sounds like you did it up for Thanksgiving! I like her quote about the same old thing being consolation. For our Thanksgiving, we have the same menu every year...sometimes someone will try to change something up and everyone revolts....every time! I guess it's ok since we generally only eat the Thanksgiving dishes on Thanksgiving...and no other time during the year.

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    1. Sarah - We often try to change ONE thing each year. Some are hits, but most times we go back to the traditional dishes. We may have an experimental holiday meal early in November next year, so there will be no surprises on the actual day ;-)

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  6. I have read this one - in fact it is sitting right on top of a pile of posts I have yet to write - I really enjoyed both her style of writing and her attitude towards cooking and entertaining. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

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    1. Carole - I'll look forward to your post :)

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  7. I had not heard of her and she sounds wonderful. What a pleasing comfort book and blog post to the old mind and body. Haha. I love old cookbooks. I often think I should cook some of the old meals then I get distracted. Loved this.

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    1. Thanks, Pam. Old cookbooks can be pretty entertaining. I'm looking forward to reading more by Colwin.

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  8. Hmmm, Blogger is giving me grief this morning. Let's try this again.

    I loved this book, but didn't care for her novel.

    If you're interested, take a look at an article her daughter wrote for B&N Review. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/review/looking-for-laurie

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    1. Les - Sorry blogger is giving you a hard time today :(
      There have been mixed reviews on Colwin's fiction. I'd like to give it a try at some point... just not sure when I'll get to it. Thanks for the link!

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    1. Deb - I think you'll enjoy this one!

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  10. I love Laurie Colwin, and I'm glad that her writing is being reissued. I'm one who loved her fiction first and resorted to her nonfiction when I had read and reread all of her fiction and knew, sadly, there was no more to come. My husband and I both love her food writing. I don't like to keep her books in the kitchen where they might get food spills on them, so maybe I should get the e-books for using the recipes!

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    1. Laurie - The mixed reaction to Colwin's fiction is surprising, but I'm going to give it a try. Will probably start with Happy All the Time.

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  11. I'm glad you enjoyed this book, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia so I'm not sure it would speak to me in the same way,
    Have a great reading week!
    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

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    1. Shelleyrae - Thanksgiving really only figured into the Stuffing: A Confession essay... the rest are pretty universal.

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  12. I really liked this book. a fun read. Like her spirit. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

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    1. Carole- SO glad you liked it, too!

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