More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen

More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen

by Laurie Colwin

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Overview

More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin

More Home Cooking, like its predecessor, Home Cooking, is an expression of Laurie Colwin's lifelong passion for cuisine. In this delightful mix of recipes, advice, and anecdotes, she writes about often overlooked food items such as beets, pears, black beans, and chutney. With down-to-earth charm and wit, Colwin also discusses the many pleasures and problems of cooking at home in essays such as "Desserts That Quiver," "Turkey Angst," and "Catering on One Dollar a Head." As informative as it is entertaining, More Home Cooking is a delicious treat for anyone who loves to spend time in the kitchen.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060955311
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/28/2000
Series: Harper Perennial
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)

About the Author

Laurie Colwin is the author of five novels: Happy All the Time; Family Happiness; Goodbye Without Leaving; Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object; and A Big Storm Knocked It Over; three collections of short stories: Passion and Affect, Another Marvelous Thing, and The Lone Pilgrim; and two collections of essays: Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She died in 1992.

Date of Birth:

June 14, 1944

Date of Death:

October 25, 1992

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

New York, New York

Education:

B.A., Bard College; M.A., Columbia University

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Lone Pilgrim

I have been the house pet to several families: friendly, cheerful, good with children, and, most important, I have an acute sensitivity to the individual rhythms of family life. I blend in perfectly, without losing myself. A good houseguest is like an entertainer: Judy Garland, Alfred Hitchcock, Noel Coward. You know what a specific public wants-in my case, groups of two, with children.

For example, Paul and Vera Martin and their children, Ben and Violet. Paul and Vera are lawyers. Paul spends rainy Sundays fishing, and although Vera is a good cook, she is not fond of cleaning fish, so Paul's grandfather's knife is entrusted to me. I do the neat job of a surgeon. Vera, who likes precision, was so impressed by my initial performance that she allowed me into her kitchen, and we have been cooking together ever since. I knew by instinct where she would keep her pots, her baking dishes, her mixing bowls, her silverware. If you are interested in people, their domestic arrangements are of interest, too. That's the sort of student of human conduct I am.

In Maine, I visit Christopher and Jean Goodison and their little son jean Luc. The Goodisons are haphazard housekeepers, but I have their routine down pat. Their baby and I get along famously. We have a few moments together: a hailstorm he observed from my lap; a lesson in crawling; an afternoon with a kitten. The best way with babies, I have come to know, is quietude. Never approach first. Be casual. Pay minimal tactile attention, and never try to make them love you. You can sit on the same sofa with a child and do nothing more than clutch its little foot fromtime to time, and before long you will have that child on your lap.

The Goodisons will leave jean Luc with me when they go shopping, although ordinarily -- with ordinary mortals, that is-they are very protective of their son. When they return, I surprise them with a Lady Baltimore cake. Alone in their house, I admire their Shaker table, the fancy-back spoons I find mixed in with their spatulas, the dried-flower arrangements in their lusterware pitchers.

And there are others: the Hartwells in Boston, who live in a Spartan apartment decorated with city-planning. charts. The rigorous Mazzinas, who take me camping. The jerricks, who dress for dinner and bring you a breakfast tray on Sunday morning: coffee, toast, and a small vase with a single flower in it. My friends admire my charm, my sagacity, my propriety, and my positive talent for fitting in with the daily life of others while holding my own.

The adhesive tape on my mailbox reads "P. Rice." Paula Rice, that is, known to all as Polly. I am the charming girl illustrator. I did the pictures for Hector the Hero, The Pig Who Said Pneu, Fish with Feathers, Snow White and Rose Red, and The I Don't Care Papers-all children's books. Five feet four, reddish hair, brown eyes, long legs. At college, I studied medieval French literature, but kept a sketchbook with me at all times. During the summers, I studied calligraphy, papermaking, and bookbinding, and worked as an apprentice at the Lafayette Press, printers of fine editions. I make a living illustrating children's books, but to please myself I do etchings and ink drawings, which I often present to friends on special occasions -- marriages, anniversaries, birthdays.

On the side, I am a perfect houseguest. I have the temperament for it. Being a designer teaches you the habit of neatness, and an appreciation for a sense of order not your own. Being a houseguest allows you to fantasize with no one crowding you. After all, you are but a guest, an adornment. Your object is to give pleasure to your hosts. Lolling around in other people's houses allows your mind to drift. Inspired by my surroundings, I indulge myself in this lazy, scene-setting kind of thought. For example: a big yellow moon; the kitchen of an old house in an academic community. On the window ledge a jar of homemade jam, a pot of chives, a cutting of grape ivy in a cracked mug. A big dog sleeps in front of the stove. If you open the window, you feel the crisp October air. An apple pie or a loaf of bread is in the oven, and the house is warm with the scent of it. You wonder if it is time to deal with the last pumpkin, or to pickle the, basket of green tomatoes. In the study, your husband is drowsing over an elevating book, a university-press book in blue wrappers. You are wearing a corduroy skirt, a chic blouse, and a sweater of your husband's is tied around your shoulders. You are a woman contemplating seasonal change.

Or you go to the Martins on a rainy night. They occupy two floors of a Victorian brownstone, and as you contemplate the polished moldings and watch the rain through the leaded windows, you feel you are in England in the spring-in a little house in Devizes, say, or Bexhill-on-Sea. Your children have just been put to bed. You have finished reading a book on the life of Joseph Wright of Derby. There is a knock on the door. You start up. Your husband is away, and it is foggy outside. At the door is an old lover, someone who broke your heart, who is in England on business and has tracked you down.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that you live in a flat in New York. Your work is done at an oak drawing table, surrounded by pots of brushes and pens. In other people's houses your perspective widens. You contemplate the Martins' old Spode platter. You know the burn on their dining-room table -- the only flaw in its walnut surface -- is from Paul's cigar, placed there the night before Ben was born. These details feed the imagination.

Oh, domesticity! The wonder of dinner plates and cream pitchers. You know your friends by their ornaments. You want everything. If Mrs. A. has her mama's old jelly mold, you want one, too, and everything that goes with it -- the family, the tradition, the years of having jelly molded in it. We domestic sensualists live in a state of longing, no, matter how comfortable our own places are.

The Lone Pilgrim. Copyright © by Laurie Colwin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

The Lone Pilgrim3
The Boyish Lover17
Sentimental Memory33
A Girl Skating49
An Old-Fashioned Story59
Intimacy79
Travel91
Delia's Father103
A Mythological Subject117
Saint Anthony of the Desert135
The Smile Beneath the Smile151
The Achieve of, the Mastery of the Thing165
Family Happiness189

Reading Group Guide

In her two collections of essays on cooking and eating, Laurie Colwin shares not only her skills and knowledge in the kitchen, but her wisdom about how food is a reflection of our lives. With humility and humor, she confides that she was never much for traveling: "My idea of a good time abroad is to visit someone's house and hang out, poking into their cupboards if they will let me." In this age of extreme sports and adventure travel, her honesty is both refreshing and reassuring. Likewise she assures us that fancy ingredients and equipment are not required to make a splendid meal. Her encouragement and certainty that a good cook dwells inside each of us is liberating.

It is easy to imagine what Colwin's home must have been like -- filled with food, books, and people talking about food and books. She knew that reading and eating go together. Whether we are consuming brilliant, original ideas or a pan of gingerbread that brings back childhood memories, books and food evoke our most basic, and best, instincts. They are both meant to be shared.

Questions for Discussion

Colwin says, "It is not just the Great Works of mankind that make a culture. It is the daily things, like what people eat and how they serve it." Discuss how the meals you eat daily or on special occasions reflect your own culture and your own personalities.

Much of what Colwin knows about cooking she has learned from members of her family and friends. Are there any dishes that have been passed on to you which you, in turn, make a habit of passing on to others? What makes these dishes special? How does learning a recipe from a loved one, rather than from a book, enhance the experienceof cooking that dish?

Colwin encourages us all when she says that, "Cooking is like love. You don't have to be particularly beautiful or very glamorous, or even very exciting to fall in love. You just have to be interested in it. It's the same thing with food." As a group, discuss how each of you learned to cook. For those who don't cook, or feel they can't, share what you may have learned about cooking by reading Colwin's thoughts on the subject.

Make a Reading Group Cookbook

Ask each member of your reading group to choose his or her favorite family recipe and probide a short story about the person who first created the recipe or a situation that this particular dish reminds them of. Make enough copies for the group and as you all assemble your cookbook, hold a potluck where each member bring his or her dish and have a taste of history and tradition.

Old-Fashioned Gingerbread from More Home Cooking
This recipe is an all-around hit and combines many of gingerbread's virtues. It is spicy, heartwarming, and cake-like. You do not need to add one thing: no ice cream, no icing, no poached fruit on the side. It is really and truly good by itself.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line the bottom of a buttered 8-inch round tin (2 inches deep) with parchment paper. (Parchment paper has come to have great importance in my kitchen, and it is my opinion that the person who invented it should get a Nobel Prize.)

Melt 1/2 cup cane syrup or black treacle with 6 tablespoons butter.

Beat 1 egg with 4 tablespoons buttermilk.
Sift together 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 heaping teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Mix in 3/4 cup dried currants or raisins.

Add the egg mixture, then add the syrup mixture, and mix well.

Bake 10 minutes in the 375-degree oven, turn the heat down to 325 degrees, and bake 35 to 40 minutes more. A few crumbs stick to a tester when the cake is done.

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