Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

Cooked
by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

 

by Laurie Colwin
Vintage Books, 1988
364 pages
ISBN: 978-0300171228

Review by Claire DePalma

It was late November, last year. My mother and I were in the kitchen preparing my very first Thanksgiving dinner as the hostess. We were making a bacon, kale, and shrimp stuffing I’d found online and partway through the process, some of the recipe’s indications became confusing. Our different levels of experience revealed themselves immediately: I clung more tightly to the recipe, searching for answers, whereas my mother was comfortable abandoning it and feeling her way through the dish’s execution. She, admittedly, has a few years of experience on me, but even so, has an intuitive gift with food. A kitchen MacGyver, she can take a hodge-podge of seemingly unrelated ingredients from the fridge or cupboard and create something delectable. She is my idol in the kitchen, and it’s hard for me to look at cooking as anything but a tale of generations and inheritance.

From the very forward of Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin establishes herself as a writer and cook of a similar mind. She muses, “no one who cooks cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” The concept of generations comes back again and again, as she recounts a favorite recipe of her mother’s or discusses the joys of feeding her own young daughter. (It seems Colwin was blessed with a toddler who loved vegetables, so feeding her daughter was an implausibly simple task.)

The book goes back and forth between narratives about cooking in general and specific recipes with advice on using them. The recipes range from the mundane (Old-fashioned Beef Stew: though, having cooked this recipe, it is far from mundane) to the sublime (Black Cake, a West Indian delicacy that seems as exotic as the land from which it comes). In this way, the book reveals an authentic home cook: a person who on occasion is very daring in her culinary attempts, but more often cooks her favorite “old reliables” and delights in them.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of Colwin’s book is the way that reading it now confirms her keen intuition on the preparation of food. Published originally in Gourmet Magazine and then compiled into this book in 1988, these pieces pre-date the fully blossomed contemporary “foodie” movement in our culture. Colwin discusses the importance of locally-sourced vegetables and grass-fed meats, preaching the significance of organic, farm-to-table foods as though her reader isn’t familiar with these concepts or might need convincing.

While this stance could make the book seem dated, I choose to view it as yet another instance of past generations speaking through food. Colwin was a pioneer in the 1980s and believed in the importance of farmer’s markets before it was chic. She paved the way for the current 20- and 30-somethings who spend their urban Saturday mornings picking over broccoli rabe and peaches from a farm located 30 minutes outside the city. I am grateful to Colwin and other foodie foremothers who’ve influenced the way my generation cooks and eats, just as I’m grateful to my own mother. I find myself more proud of a fine dinner composed of the disparate ingredients I had on hand than of the meal that required much planning and forethought. Laurie Colwin reminds her reader that cooking is an act of travelling somewhere sacred and paying respects to those that have gone before you. In my own kitchen, I aim to cook more and more like my mother.

January 2013