Many years ago, I tried to read Laurie Colwin, the late novelist who used to write a monthly column for Gourmet magazine.
I was turned off by her professed love of boiled beef. I couldnt imagine anything appetizing about such a dish or feel a bond with a writer who pined for such sustenance.
Now I adore Laurie Colwins food writing. Sometimes we have to grow into being able to enjoy a writers work.
Earlier this month, Colwin was inducted into the James Beard Foundations Cookbook Hall of Fame for two collections of her Gourmet essays: Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and More Home Cooking.
The former collection is included in a list of 14 Reads for Food Lovers, released last week by the foundations book awards committee. I sit on the committee and helped create the summer reading list, which offers a book for each week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The full list appears on page 4D.
In preparation for the committees discussion about whether to induct Colwin into the Hall of Fame, I picked up her books again. Now that I write a regular food column, I can better appreciate Colwins skill. I love her conspiratorial friend-in-the-kitchen tone.
My fellow committee member, Martha Holmberg, a cookbook author and former food editor at The Oregonian in Portland, described Colwin as the proto-blogger, the inadvertent pioneer of the genre that is so prevalent in food writing today. Holmberg points out, and I agree, few do it as well as Colwin did.
I also connect with Colwins writing more now that Im a mother. Colwin died suddenly at the age of 48 after a heart attack, leaving behind a husband and a daughter. Colwin makes many references in her essays to her daughter, Rosa, who graciously accepted the Hall of Fame award in her honor.
As a new parent, I have a different view of Colwins essay, Easy Cooking for Exhausted People, the same one that turned me off years ago for waxing poetic about boiled beef.
Colwin writes: I am not a fancy cook or an ambitious cook. I am a plain old cook. A while ago I was a person who liked to have friends over for dinner, and now that I have a child I am someone who is responsible for three meals a day plus snacks. ... Three meals a day seven days a week, even if you love to cook, is enough to get a person down, especially if the person has anything else to do such as pick up a child from school, write a novel, have time for such necessities as shopping, to say nothing of keeping up with friends or an occasional conversation with ones mate.
Colwin perfectly describes where I am in my life: overwhelmed by work and motherhood and finally understanding the necessity of 30-minute meals. I feel like I found a friend in the kitchen, although she has yet to sway me about boiled beef.
If you have never read Colwins work either her food essays or novels I encourage you to pick them up this summer, along with any other books weve suggested. Nothing makes a summer day better than a good read.
Weigl: 919-829-4848 or firstname.lastname@example.org