It’s a testament to the infectiousness of Colwin’s enthusiasm that her recipes seem appealing even though the food she described was often unappealing to the point of being categorically gross – and she knew it. Her favorite foods include mashed vegetable fritters, meatloaf, steamed puddings, and the jelly that surrounds cold leftover meat, spread on toast and eaten for breakfast. Her enthusiasm for fermented Chinese black beans is boundless, and in several of her recipes these salty, pungent beans are combined with cheese, or yams. “A cold steak sandwich is sort of disgusting, but it is also sort of wonderful,” she confesses, after specifying that this sandwich must include the hardened cold meat drippings, plus butter, because “this is a recipe for people whose cholesterol is too low.” And “Chicken salad has a certain glamour about it.” In a chapter titled “Kitchen Horrors,” she includes a recipe for something called Suffolk Pond Pudding, a suet-heavy British dish that a horrified guest describes as tasting “like lemon-flavored bacon fat.” “I ate almost the entire pudding myself,” she gleefully reports. It’s also refreshing to read a cookbook written by someone who unabashedly confesses to having made baked chicken and a particular creamed spinach casserole literally every time dinner guests came over — for years.
This essential weirdness translates to a sense of unlimited permission, which might be why Colwin is especially beloved to people who, like her, specialize in writing non-expert, enthusiastic reports from the front lines of cooking trial and error – in other words, food bloggers. Indeed, some of them see her less as influence than as a sort of spiritual ancestor.
-Friend of the blog Emily Gould on Laurie Colwin.
We highly recommend that you read Emily’s excellent piece on the author Laurie Colwin. In it, she articulates the reasons why Colwin’s work, and more specifically Home Cooking, a slim, unassuming collection of her food writing, has inspired such devotion and garnered an almost cult-like following, decades after her death. Lucy had recommended the book to me for years, and I put off reading it, and put off reading it, mostly because it was not available for digital download and I am the kind of garbage person who can only read on a screen these days. Shameful, I know. Eventually, I ordered a hardcopy, and greedily devoured the entire book in a few hours, kicking myself for not listening to Lucy earlier, as I should have. (Lesson learned: Always follow Lucy’s book recommendations. She has impeccable taste.) [Ed note from Lucy: It’s true that I have impeccable taste in books, but Emily’s is even better—in fact, it was she who introduced me to Laurie Colwin—so everyone should donate to her newly launched Emily Books Kickstarter campaign! So that we can all continue to benefit from her and Ruth Curry’s excellent literary taste for years to come.] I’m certain that our readers are not garbage people, but just in case, I am happy to inform you that Colwin’s entire catalogue is now available in both digital and traditional formats.
Also recommended, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone. Inspired by one of Colwin’s most famous essays, it is a collection of stories about the secret meals one eats when there’s no one else around.