Sunday, July 31, 2016

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

When I think about Laurie Colwin, I think about her tiny apartment in New York, the Meissen soup plate she would eat eggplant out of, and the time she went into her volunteer job in the kitchen of a women's shelter only to discover that she was the only cook there.  (Also, the fact that she was making sandwiches at Columbia during the upheaval that James Simon Kunen talks about in his book, The Strawberry Statement. Not a cookbook.) (Also, yeah, there was a movie. We don't discuss that, even with Bruce Davison in it. Read the book.) (Did you know that if you hit a glass Coke bottle against a toilet, the toilet will break and not the Coke bottle? Okay, I'll stop now.)

I don't think about these things because I knew her, but because she wrote about them so memorably that they've stuck with me. If you look at the cover of Home Cooking up there, you will see the quote from the New York Times Book Review, "As much memoir as cookbook and as much about eating as cooking."  For me, she hit the perfect balance.

I discovered Laurie Colwin when I acquired a boyfriend with a subscription to Gourmet magazine.  I loved her pieces, and I would look for them eagerly with each new issue.  When they stopped abruptly, it took me a while to find out why.  She died of a heart attack at age 48, much too soon.  But we do have her books -- five novels, three short story collections, and Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, made up (at least partially) of those columns from Gourmet.

I've never actually cooked anything from these books.  For me, they have been the sort of cookbooks I curl up with when I need to read an old friend.  Literary comfort food.  Here I give you not a recipe I have cooked, but one I should.

Creamed Spinach with Jalapeño Peppers

(Serves eight)

1. Cook two packages of frozen spinach. Drain, reserving one cup of liquid, and chop fine.
2. Melt four tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan and add two tablespoons of flour. Blend and cook a little. Do not brown.
3. Add two tablespoons of chopped onion and one clove of minced garlic.
4. Add one cup of spinach liquid slowly, then add 1/2 cup of evaporated milk, some fresh black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon of celery salt and six ounces of Monterey Jack cheese cut into cubes. Add one or more chopped jalapeño pepper (how many is a question of taste as well as what kind. I myself use the pickled kind, from a jar) and then the spinach. Cook until all is blended.
5. Turn into a buttered casserole topped with buttered bread crumbs and bake for about forty-five minutes at 300°.

Home Cooking at
More Home Cooking at

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