19 February 2009

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

My Summary and Thoughts: More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen is a collection of essays first published in 1993. Colwin wrote novels, but she also wrote articles for Gourmet magazine. She died suddenly at the age of forty-eight, and although she put the collection together and wrote the introduction, the book was published after her death.

My copy of More Home Cooking is a first edition, which I bought right after it appeared in the stores. I'm not sure why I never read it, because I liked Colwin's first collection of food essays, and I loved reading her column in Gourmet. The book is still in print and readily available.

Colwin's food memoir was compiled just when some segments of the American public began to change their way of eating and when people's lives seemed to be getting busier. Several essays touch on these points, such as how to find time to make dinner for friends and how to figure out what to serve when guests have to watch what they eat. She also notes changes in how we celebrate holidays and wonders about the fate of the traditional family dinner.

In each short piece, Colwin conveys her understanding of food and family, but throughout we are also treated to her sense of humor. For example: "When I gaze at Norman Rockwell's enchanting Thanksgiving picture, why do I suspect that the grandfather drinks more than he should?" In another essay she talks about the "cooking of the refined slob" and offers shortcuts for those of us who no longer have time to spend four hours making dinner.

Almost every chapter touches on the links between food and those we love and between food and memories. And many chapters include a recipe; some are complete recipes and others are more like ideas, along the line of take a little of this and add a little of that.

Just about half of the forty-five essays focus on a particular food, such as biscuits, beets, coffee, and duck. Here is a snippet from the tomato chapter: "One of the joys of summer is to go roaming through the garden, pulling ripe tomatoes off the vine, and biting in. Juice and seeds drip all over your nice white shirt, but who cares?"

In other essays, Colwin contemplates holidays, picnics, vacations, jet lag, and dinner parties.

I was pleased to discover that most of Colwin's work still holds up, even though it has been more than fifteen years since the book was published. This is not necessarily a book to read all in one sitting. In fact, I think it'd be grand to read a chapter each afternoon while taking some time to enjoy a cup of coffee—one of Colwin's and my own personal addictions.

I read this book to meet a number of challenges (listed below). To find out more about a challenge or to see what others are reading, click on the challenge title in the sidebar.

Published by HarperCollins, 1993, 2000
ISBN13: 9780060955311
Challenges: Winter Reading, 9 in 2009, 100+, 999
YTD: 15
Rating: B


Nicole 2/19/09, 6:48 AM  

I love reading books about food, as you know. But I love the old books that detail everything out and talk about family rituals. As a child I remember reading the Better Homes and Gardens cooking and housekeeping books and enjoying all the tips. How interesting to read a book that was written as the shift was taking place.

Great review!

Molly 2/19/09, 7:07 AM  

I remember reading her articles in Gourmet! I had no idea there was a compilation of them in book form. Thank you for the wonderful review - and opportunity to reminisce.

J. Kaye 2/19/09, 8:08 AM  

At first glance, I thought this was just a cookbook. That would have been good, but this sounds so much better. :)

bermudaonion 2/19/09, 8:49 AM  

I love books and cooking. This sounds like a book to savor.

Sandy Nawrot 2/19/09, 9:23 AM  

First of all, that is so tragic that we lost this talented woman at such a young age. I love food and I love to cook, but more than that, I love the joy that goes with sitting down at the table with family and friends to share a meal. (I especially love being the one to provide the food!) I can't be happier than when I'm cooking for those I love. I must read this book!

Margot 2/19/09, 12:49 PM  

I agree with Sandy - I must read this book. How nice to have this in your personal library to enjoy from time to time.

Congratulations on completing your Books About Food Challenge. I have one more to go. I will miss this challenge.

Ladytink_534 2/19/09, 12:57 PM  

This sounds like a wonderful collection! I'll have to see if I can find it at my library.

Beth F 2/19/09, 1:19 PM  

Thanks, Margot! It was a really fun challenge. I'll still watch the blog so I won't miss everyone else's books.

I hope some of you really do pick this up to read. You're not going to click with all 45 essays, but most are delightful!

caite 2/19/09, 8:19 PM  

It sounds charming.

Marbel 2/21/09, 4:03 PM  

Oh, I haven't read this book in years, but I loved it and its predecessor. Now I think I'll have to go dig it out of a box and reread it. :-)

280 Main 2/21/09, 9:08 PM  

I'm so glad you wrote about this. This is the perfect gift for one of my friends. Cooking is way more to her than just food; she uses it to communicate, I think...

Bybee 2/22/09, 11:34 PM  

This one's been on my wish list for a few years now. Thanks for the review.

WorkingWords100 2/23/09, 9:09 PM  

I have to let my foodie bookie friend know about this work!

Thanks for participating in 9 for '09 Reading Challenge.


Belle | MsBookish 2/26/09, 4:55 PM  

I've read both of Colwin's home cooking books - reading your review just now, I think it's time I go dig them out for a re-read.

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