I picked up her first volume of collected essays with recipes (compiled mostly from pieces published in Gourmet during the late 80s and early 90s) when I was spending two weeks in a rented apartment in Vancouver and happened upon it on the owner’s shelf. The second, MORE HOME COOKING, was given to me last week by an ex-pat American living in Ireland. She thought I might enjoy it and she was right: I gobbled it up.
Laurie Colwin is easy and good company. She is hyperbolic in her love of good food and offers many recipes that she promises will reward the reader/cook with great pleasure. She cooks mostly from published recipes, which she gleefully plays around with, giving them her own personal stamp. Even though Colwin is equally enthusiastic about every dish she presents, somehow you believe her, and it cheers you up.
Colwin’s love of cooking and eating is infectious and makes you want to run into the kitchen and turn on the oven. In her own homey way, she becomes larger than life, embracing and admitting to that part of ourselves that has denied the basic pleasure of licking the bowl clean with gusto and not the least bit of embarrassment.
Like many dedicated cooks, Colwin was cooking Slow Food long before it became a movement with a name. She promises readers that they can eat really well with just a little bit of planning and a few minutes at the stove, leaving the low flame or slow oven to do all the work.
She is fond of old-fashioned things, and has a particular affection for English puddings, cakes, and jellies. One of her favorite cookbooks is Jane Grigson’s GOOD THINGS, and since I am currently in England fondly remembering my visit with Jane Grigson in the late 70s, I took special pleasure in reading Colwin’s take on Grigson’s Three-Layered Lemon Gel.
Colwin comes across as delightfully kooky and, from what I’ve heard, wore only striped clothing–but this rumor was not confirmed by the images I found on Google. However, she’s definitely not a dull girl, loving her lime pickle and chili peppers to distraction.
I’ve read all of her novels and short stories with great pleasure and I commend them to you. I have dog-eared the page where the recipe for Karen Edwards’s Version of Buttermilk Cocoa Cake appears. Perhaps I’ll make it when I get home, but likely I’ll get caught up in other things–a reality of modern life that Colwin laments.
You can read more about Laurie Colwin in Jonathan Yardley’s lovely tribute written shortly after her sudden and untimely death in 1992 at the very young age of 48.