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4.6 out of 5 stars
Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (Vintage Contemporaries)
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92 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
A talented and extraordinarily accessible writer, Laurie Colwin died unexpectedly at the age of forty-eight in October 1992. In "Home Cooking," as in her other books, Colwin's writing charmingly combines an easy, conversational style, an innate curiosity and a good-natured disrespect for things fancy. She was a decidedly unstuffy columnist for GOURMET magazine for some years, giving the magazine a needed breath of fresh air.
If you have not already partaken of the pleasures of reading Colwin's work, I urge you to buy a copy of "Home Cooking." Colwin is insouciant, opinionated and very funny. My favorite chapter in "Home Cooking" is entitled "Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir". It begins:
"There is something triumphant about a really disgusting meal. It lingers in the memory with a lurid glow, just as something exalted is remembered with a kind of mellow brilliance...I am thinking about meals that are positively loathsome from soup to nuts, although one is not usually fortunate enough to get either soup or nuts."
With great relish, Colwin describes several perfectly horrid meals, the most striking of which is a variation of the medieval starry gazey pie, "in which the crust is slit so that the whole baked eels within can poke their nasty little heads out and look at the piecrust stars with which the top is supposed to be festooned."
The recipes in "Home Cooking" seem almost like afterthoughts to her meanderings on entertaining, home and hearth, and disguising vegetables, but they are mostly very good and always very simple. Colwin's gingerbread recipe is particularly delicious, and will make your house smell like a Christmas party. Highly recommended both as a cozy read and as a source of reliable recipes. We lost her too young, but Laurie Colwin lives on in "Home Cooking" and her other fine books.
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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is the first book containing a collection of Laurie Colwin's columns for Gourmet magazine. Colwin died suddenly of heart problems at age 48 in 1992. Many of you may have read her fiction (A Big Storm Knocked It Down, Happy All the Time, etc.). When she died, she left an additional 12 columns, some of which are in "More Home Cooking", a companion to "Home Cooking".
"Home Cooking" is a great memoir, disguised as a collection of columns about food! It has stories, vignettes, food lore and advice, and...oh, yes some recipes. I love the titles of the columns--some were: Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant; Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir; Kitchen Horrors.
Colwin was an engaging, amusing, clever, and elegant writer. She was not afraid to stand back and laugh at herself as she told about kitchen mistakes she had made. Her nurturing nature is apparent in her writing. I would have loved to have known her, to have had her as a friend.
I have read this book, or portions of it, many times and it keeps getting better.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I've always loved Laurie Colwin's novels and short stories. I've always been an avid (and an immodestly talented) home cook. So I was delighted when she first began writing her monthly food columns in Gourmet magazine. What a brilliant idea to ask a skillful writer of fiction to create columns devoted to food. Of course, I've owned the two collections gathered from those wonderful columns, but decided I had to get a new set to give to a friend. This month's Gourmet magazine offers Anna Quindlen's loving memories of Laurie Colwin, which triggered my ordering the books.
After reading the first volume, I had to write her a letter. I was telling her about a recipe to which she responded by saying, "sounds way too complicated to me." The recipe had only three ingredients. We would periodically exchange letters (she actually sent postcards). So when she died of a heart attack at the age of 48, I was stunned and profoundly sad. I thought I would be reading her Gourmet columns for years to come. Now that wonderful voice was silenced.
I've made Colwin's simple roast chicken many times. Her chocolate cakes are predictably wonderful, but it is her recipe for "Damp Gingerbread," that I return to most often. And when I do, I invariably reread one of her chapters. You can't imagine a more vivid and cozy writer. It's Colwin's distinct voice that captures my imagination--the simplicty of her prose style, the elegance of her thoughts and her refusal to take anything too seriously (except her daughter) that I find most appealing. This is writing that makes you smile. You can actually smell things cooking in these stories. I hope they stay in print forever for generations to admire. So the next time you're thinking of roast chicken (and who doesn't) pull down a copy of HOME COOKING.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 1997
Format: Paperback
I first read this terrific book about eight years ago and my copy is dog-eared and stained with "pure cane syrup," etc., as apparently are the copies of other reviewers. I read it when I need to feel comforted, consoled, uplifted, as well as when I need a recipe. On a disturbing note, I read on the back flap of a more recent book of Colwin's that she had passed away. I wrote to the publisher, saddened that we would never hear her wonderful literary voice again, but received no reply.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I discovered Laurie Colwin by accident (luck!), and have fallen in love with her writing. I read "Home Cooking" in two days, and then went on to devour "More Home Cooking." Reading this book makes you feel like you are in Laurie's kitchen with her, just chatting and creating some delicious food. Her musings are interesting, inspiring, and down to earth. In many ways, she is the anti-Martha Stewart, as she openly admits short cuts she takes (cutting up canned tomatoes while they're still in the can!), and discourages purchasing lots of kitchen paraphenalia. Throughout all of her writing and her cooking, the biggest ingredient is love. I felt warm all over reading this book, and whether you're into cooking or just having a great read, I'm sure that you will too!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
Lori Colwin brings a smile to your face and makes you laugh out loud as you read through her experiences of living and loving food.
The "homecooked" recipes,included in annecdotale format make you want to get into the kitchen and cook something wonderful to share with your family.
My copy of this book is dog eared with recipes I've tried and must try.
This book is an excellent addition to anyone's collection, and a must for Foodies !
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is so much fun to read. It feels like you're in her kitchen, having a good chat with an old friend. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys food, cooking and/or entertaining.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was my first by Laurie Colwin, and I have re-read it many times. I especially love the recipe for beef barley soup, which I had always wanted to make but wasn't sure how to go about. She makes cooking seem a very natural part of living and family life, like you can fit a home-cooked meal into all the other things you do like the carpool and the laundry and your job. I also love the horrible meal chapter.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
'Home Cooking' by Laurie Colwin is the kind of book that really makes you wish you could become friends with the author. Unfortunately, the author is no longer with us, so there is a lot more than the usual barrier between celebrity and mere mortal between reader and writer.

The chapters in the book are essays composed of both culinary and autobiographical material, although the book is not a memoir a la Ruth Reichl's two books. It is also not culinary criticism or exposition in the style of John Thorne. It is most similar to the kind of essays written by Elizabeth David, one of the author's heroes, and M.F.K. Fisher.

The author has the advantage of most good writers in that she has lived in interesting circumstances providing fuel for her writing. One premise for much of her culinary advice is based on the fact that for several years, she lived in a very small Greenwich Village apartment with no oven, two hot plates, no sink and a tiny refrigerator, with literally enough room to hold no more than three people at a time. Amazingly, the author was able to actually entertain in this tiny space, using the bathtub and commode as a means of washing up the dishes.

Much of the culinary advice is quirky and some is actually a bit dated, as it predates the microplane and the cheap plastic mandoline. I suspect the author may have changed some of her opinions if these tools had been available. Colwin's advice about knives is also a little dated, as she swears by carbon steel blades rather than modern stainless steel. Since there is no evidence that she sharpened her own knives, I suspect a modern Santoku knife may have changed her opinion. Even so, the essays are a testament to cooking with only the bare minimum of equipment and space.

It is not surprising that Ms. Colwin's recipes never made the 'Best of' series, as they are quirky rather than true gourmet fare. While another of Ms. Colwin's heroes is Edna Lewis, the very influential writer on Southern cooking, Ms. Colwin's recipe for Southern Fried Chicken does not follow Ms. Lewis' lead on a number of things such as an overnight buttermilk marinade. He does, however, keep to the gospel of pan frying rather than deep-frying.

Ms. Colwin's writing provides much more food for the soul than it does food for the gut. Reading this book makes one wish that Karen Duffey would have channeled her not inconsiderable talent for the simple in her book 'A Slob in the Kitchen' into a style more like Ms. Colwin's very entertaining twists on culinary matters.

Highly recommended reading for foodies.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2005
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'd rather dine out than in, and I hate to cook, but I like Laurie Colwin's style of writing, so I bought this book. Even Ms. Colwin admitted that she bought cookbooks just to read them, but I'm sure she tried some of the recipes as well. She described, by name, several cookbooks she had on hand, most or all out of print, and it made me wish I could read them as well. To show how cleverly she turned a phrase, I was inspired to cook something and did! I tried a recipe for bread that, when she wrote it, had me almost tasting it. Alas, said bread did not turn out as hoped. I had someone else (an experienced cook) try it as well, and it was somewhat disappointing. No big deal. I'd rather read than cook, anyway.
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