A Little Home Cookin’
Once again, the Hot Biscuit has contributed mightily to my food world! She stumbled upon The Kitchen Reader and knew I needed to check it out. A site dedicated to reviewing books about food? Sign me up! This month’s pick was Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking…
A few things became crystal clear as I read Cooking:
1. Colwin was a good writer with a gift for telling charming, funny stories;
2. She had great insights into late-bloomer cooks and what they want to achieve;
3. That this book was definitely written in the 80’s. Some of those recipes? They practically have crimped hair and acid washed jeans.
Home Cooking is a great, fast read that touches on many topics but succeeds at its highest level when the author simply tells stories of how she arrived at certain recipes, especially when she first began to cook in her tiny apartment. I got many hearty chuckles at tales of dinners gone hilariously awry and nodded along at her assessment of those who came to cooking later in life. I didn’t start really cooking until my 20s and when I fell into the classic trap of trying to do too much at once. Fortunately for me, I have very patient friends and family who were kind enough to keep encouraging me! Colwin’s descriptions of meant-well-but-failed dinners hit home in a very personal way for me and, I’m sure, to many others. I kind of wish I’d read this book before my culinary journey started – I might have avoided some minor culinary…missteps.
Where Home Cooking occasionally lost me was its pretentiousness. There are a few passages that had me rolling my eyes. For example, I can most definitely say that I have never felt a deep desire to cook up stuffed veal or paté-stuffed chicken. Have I wanted to make fancy dinners? Sure. The assertion that “every” cook wants to make the above dishes, however, was a bit much. Maybe a product of the times, maybe a product of the author’s opinion but either way I felt that there was a condescending tone that occasionally crept through.
Having said that, I felt that Cooking was packed with some great stories and broadcast important messages: that nothing ventured means nothing gained. It’s okay – and expected – to make mistakes in the kitchen. That your friends will forgive you your “crispy around the edges” fish that stayed in the pan longer than you intended. Try new things and be creative! You never know what amazing recipe or technique you’ll stumble upon in your next kitchen adventure.