27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Laurie Colwin was a talented writer and had a real feel for the essential qualities of great food. Though not a chef or professional cook, she used her writing skills to delve into the mysteries of what makes good food great. And she did that with some of the funniest, sharpest, best writing since M.F.K. Fisher.
Alas, Laurie died in 1992, much too young, so you have to savor every scrap of writing she left us, in essays for Gourmet Magazine, and these, in her Home Cooking volumes. Colwin wrote some novels as well, but really, her food writing is what I appreciate the most.as
Colwin's writing is opinionated and passionate: she goes into raptures over things most 7 year olds (and quite a few adults) would gag over; succotash, beets, goat's milk yogurt. Yet her sense of what makes food essentially wonderful will have even the most confirmed vegetable-a-phobe at least thinking about trying her succotash recipe or maybe even looking at a raw beetroot with calm impartiality. In case you are certain you will still shun beets and lima beans, at least read her description of how to roast a duck. It's splendid.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2000
I think I've read every book Laurie Colwin has written, and I miss her. I refer to both her food books frequently-- both for recipes and for her down-home wisdom about what's good (if not necessarily good for you. Her strong opinions are not necessarily mine-- I still haven't acquired a taste for paprika, and she uses way too much butter, but her gingerbread recipe is the one comfort food I turn to on snowy days, and her essays on roasting chicken are a treasure. Having this book (both of them, actually) is like having a really good friend who loves to cook and eat as much as you do.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
'More 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 and I believe this volume was published posthumously, so there is a lot more than the usual barrier between celebrity and mere mortal between reader and writer.
Like the first volume, 'Home Cooking', 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 M.F.K. Fisher and Elizabeth David, one of the author's heroes.
In one of her essays, Ms. Colwin puts her finger on a reason for the popularity of cookbooks and cooking shows in the face of what some people claim to be the disappearance of home cooking. Reading about cooking is simply very comforting and reassuring. I find that I may not learn a whole lot from a particular Ina Garten or Paula Deen or Sara Moulton show on the Food Network, but it is certainly reassuring to watch, if even for the fourteenth time, how Ina cooks salmon so she can have it at two different meals with her guests being none the wiser regarding the doubling up on the effort.
Ms. Colwin gained this insight by reading Elizabeth David's 'Italian Food' while under the influence of a particularly acute hangover. And, her admiration of David's style is well demonstrated in the way Ms. Colwin writes recipes. There is none of the formal list of ingredients at the top with neatly laid out prep instructions so one can do their mise en place in true French brigade fashion. This is straight from Elizabeth David's spare recipe writing style done at a time when home cooks knew a lot more about cooking than they do today, or that at least is the patter among the Cassandras of modern culinary journalism.
Fortunately, Ms. Colwin's writing is less about cooking technique than it is about how we do and should think about cooking and food. It is to culinary journalism much like the editorial pages are to political journalism.
Like all very good culinary journalism such as that done by Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman, this is stuff you can read and reread on rainy March afternoons. It is doubly good in that Ms. Colwin is speaking from a quarter she knows well, the slightly atypical American housewife.
Very highly recommended culinary reading. Recipes are more for inspiration than real life cooking, unless you just love to deconstruct Elizabeth David recipes.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2004
It's been many years since I've actually indulged my love for cooking. My food preparation had long been limited to two choices: (1)add Lawry's seasoning salt and bake/fry/broil, and (2)fast food. Recently, I became reacquanited with my inner chef and became obsessed with cookbooks and books about food. I came across More Home Cooking during one of my recent trips to the local bookstore. I was intrigued by the tag, "A Writer Returns to the Kitchen." (I love good writing and I love good food.) The chapter titles sounded promising: Why I Love Cookbooks; The Case of the Mysterious Flatbread; How to Cook Like an American; Turkey Angst...Plus, the book had recipes! This was clearly a writer who had more than a passing interest in food; this was a true believer. So, what of this book? It's simply wonderful. It's not a book you rush through all at once, but rather one you can carry with you and savor in those brief windows of time throughout your day: during lunch break, while waiting in a line, in the car wash...Colwin's writing is so well-done it seems effortless and comes across as a conversation with an articulate friend who loves to talk about food. She's opinionated, good-humored, and honest in her essays about the merits of certain foods, the drawbacks of others, advice about food and living, and events from her own daily life. From her chapter entitled, In Search of Latvian Bread, regarding her attempt to replicate this bread: "The results were, to my mind, mixed. An Estonian came for supper and said it tasted exactly like the bread he had had in Moscow. I was not sure that this was a compliment. A dancer friend, also at dinner, tasted it and said he liked the other bread (miche from the greenmarket) better. My husband said that it was wonderful, but that I should have added rye flour. The Estonian said this bread would keep forever. I was not sure that this was a compliment." It's these little moments about her curiosity about food, her willingness to experiment, and her genuine fondness for food and the people it nourishes that make this book one you'll read through once and then pick up every now and again, just to enjoy a chapter or two once more. Incidentally, it wasn't until I was nearly finished with this book that I read the "About the Author" paragraph on the back cover. That's when I learned that Laurie Colwin had died in 1992; I felt a flicker of sadness. I would certainly have looked forward to future "conversations" with this engaging writer.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2006
another unique and interesting cookbook that is hidden inside a great read. I read this after her first book, Home Cooking, and I felt they complimented each other very well. As in the first book; the recipies are traditional but not really used anymore, sadly enough...easy enough to make, and practical in my opinion. A very very good book to curl up with.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
My friend Cindy- who is an absolute sweetheart- surprised me one day with two books she thought I should read- Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, and the aptly named followup, More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen.
Colwin was a popular and prolific novelist with a loyal following, but these two collections of essays are, I suspect, even more popular than her novels. She is a writer with an easy style, and an unpretentious voice that draws you in to her world. Consider this opening to the first essay in Home Cooking:
"Unlike some people, who love to go out, I love to stay home. This may be caused by laziness, anxiety, or xenophobia, and in the days when my friends were traveling in Nepal and Bolivia, I was ashamed to admit that what I liked best was hanging around the house.
I am probably not much fun as a traveler, either. My idea of a good time abroad is to visit someone's house and hang out, poking into their cupboard if they will let me."
Colwin comes across as very much the homebody, and very much a fan of home cooking. You have to love a food writer who has chapter titles like Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir. And you can't help being captivated by a writer who explains her love of reading cookbooks by describing her discovery that good cookbooks have all the great food descriptions of a Barbara Pym novel, but without all the messy plot details. Colwin's books are full of wonderful stories of cooking and dining with friends, and recipes. They're mostly simple dishes that don't require any special technique, and that can be counted on to delight company. Some seem a bit dated now- the book came out of pieces written for Gourmet Magazine in the 80s and 90s- but they're still all good, even if a bit evocative of the spinach-dip-in-hollowed-bread era.
If your favorite social activity is dining at home with friends, if you like home style cooking rather than exotic "foodie" cooking, or if you just like reading about cooking from someone with an unpretentious enthusiasm for good, simple food, I think you'll be delighted by these books.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Whether you enjoy cooking good home food for your family, or if you simply enjoy a great book to read, Laurie Colwin is your author. I'm no chef, but I loved this book. I felt as though Laurie and I had become friends, and I was deeply saddened to learn that she passed away in 1992. She tells great stories, gives good advice, and never overwhelms you with instructions or information (quite the opposite, in fact!). Her relaxed and conversational style of writing, and her reassurance that she wouldn't do it either if it weren't easy, encourages you to feel you too can make a delicious meal, bake your own bread, and still have a life! Unlike Martha Stewart, who often makes me feel overwhelmed, inadequate, or ill-equipped... Laurie makes you feel like she's dishing with you right in your own kitchen, and is very candid about her shortcuts and lack of kitchen tools. I wish I could have been friends with Laurie Colwin... but the next best thing is to read this book. ENJOY!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I've given countless copies of Home Cooking and More Home Cooking to kitchen-challenged friends, picky eaters and young people just acquiring their own first kitchens. At the time I first discovered them there were no other books on food and cooking that so immediately granted permission to experiment, entertain and yes, to fail to novice cooks. Now there is Nigella Lawson and her How To Eat is written in much the same helpful and imaginative vein as Laurie Colwin's books. How To Eat is a Big Book, and though I'm a big fan, it will never replace Colwin's two gems on my cookbook shelf.
Once a year or so, I reread these two books and find inspiration. I've not had wonderful success with all the recipes and while some of the chapters are food specked and greasy, some are as pristine as the day the book arrived. Yogurt is not popular in my household, and I know that even if I made it from scratch it would languish uneaten in the fridge, but the Tomato Pie is a staple of summer lunches. It is simply delicious, especially if made with homegrown heirloom tomatoes, and my favorite recipe of both books. I've made the bread (just OK), the meatloaf (just OK) and the lima beans with chorizo (much better with the addition of a can of stewed tomatoes); the Delicata Squash Tian (superb) and the Mysterious Flatbread (very good--the charnushka are available from Penzey's). The Nantucket Cranberry Pie was not a dinner party hit, though I may try it again at Thanksgiving and I finally dumped the last jar of Lime Chutney down the disposal last week. I'm puzzled as to why the Vegetarian Chili has no chili seasoning in it, and I suspect some of the recipes have ingredients missing, but that's absolutely OK.
The value of these books is in their very literate acknowledgement of the significance of food and cooking, more importantly, meals eaten at a table in the company of civilized people. Although Colwin slyly writes of solitary pleasures like leftover flank steak and the Thanksgiving turkey neck, most of the time what issues from her kitchen is to be shared. Indeed, after these rereadings, I have to exercise great restraint, as my impulse is to invite everyone I know to dinner. Thankfully, most of the time I'm able to get a grip on this impulse, but it's a testament that even after enough rereadings that I can quote whole passages from memory, Colwin still has the ability to spark it.
I'd give these books along with The Joy of Cooking to any new homeowner, college graduate or newlywed--The Joy for never fail technology and Colwin for never fail inspiration.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I am a professional home economist with 40 years experience in the kitchen and 28 cookbooks to my name. Every single one of Ms. Colwin's recipes I have tried have been absolutely excellent. Her recipe for succotash is inspired. The onion flatbread is one of the best things I've ever tasted. And her Lemon Rice Pudding should be awarded the Nobel prize.
But that's not why I love this book. I love this book because of her writing. I can't quite pinpoint what is so wonderful about her writing style. She doesn't waste words. She doesn't add unnecessary words. She doesn't use contractions. And she has the most wonderful way of putting together a list. Her writing is almost like poetry. I read this book for her writing style, and for the wonderful way she describes food and comfort.
She will always be my favorite writer. I can say this because, after 20 years of searching and a home library with more than 5000 books, I have never found a writer to equal her. Michael Lee West's "Consuming Passions" comes close. I really wish she had lived longer so she could have given us more of her gifts.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2007
I heartily agree with those previous reviewers who enjoyed curling up with "More Home Cooking" (and its prequel, "Home Cooking"). However, I have one major and one minor quibble with the book.
I am more than ready to blame the minor quibble on an overzealous editor and not on Laurie Colwin. Either way, someone decided that all food terminology that could possibly be construed as non-English should be italicized. It's surprising how distracting this is. It's one thing to see a reference to "crème brulée," (this review form does not accept italics, so I'm putting the words in quotes instead) but quite another to see constant references to "kielbasa," "pita" bread, and, surprisingly, "salsa."
The second problem can, considering that this is a cookbook, only be considered major. That is the fact that every recipe I've tried, with the exception of one, has been a total failure. Colwin was obviously an intuitive cook who never made anything the same way twice, and assumed that her readers would just know how much of what kind of spice to put in the soup and how long to cook the beans. Consider, for instance, this typical recipe, offered in all seriousness, for "Cold Yogurt Soup": "The easiest soup in the world to make...No-fat yogurt, defatted chicken stock, skinned cucumbers, a pinch of cumin, and the juice of half a lemon. There are endless variations on this theme: the addition of cooked grated beets, a teaspoon of curry, a small clove of garlic. The blender does all the work for you. The soup is put in the fridge and forgotten until dinnertime, when it is garnished with chopped parsley, chopped dill, scallions, chives, or all of them."
That's it. It's hard to imagine anyone following these proportionless instructions and coming up with something edible, unless they are also the kind of instinctive cook who doesn't really need any recipes anyway.
So, I've made up my mind that from now on, I'll just read Laurie Colwin's mouthwatering descriptions and accept the fact that I'll never actually taste these dishes. For that purpose, I highly recommend her books.
(Oh, the one exception: the wonderful Nantucket Cranberry Pie comes out perfectly every time).