On Our Bookshelves:
Home Cooking

BOOK: Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

AUTHOR: Laurie Colwin



Reading Home Cooking (and its companion volume, More Home Cooking, published in 1993) is like eating the best kind of comfort food. The kind Laurie Colwin writes about (and for which she provides recipes) are things like beef stew, fried chicken, potato salad, potato pancakes, chocolate cake, gingerbread, biscuits, and so forth. Your list may look completely different, but that’s not the point.

You don’t read Laurie Colwin to learn how to cook (although you might, and it just might work). You read Laurie Colwin because of the stories she tells: of cooking in a tiny NYC apartment, of eating to cure a hangover after a disgraceful night, of slow and glorious meals, and of getting something decent to put on the table after a busy day at work. She writes about feeding crowds, and feeding a date. She gives advice for how to manage a dinner party without losing your mind. And that it’s time to go out for hamburgers when your attempt at home cooking is not a success.


She’s philosophical about ghastly dinners at other people’s homes: “Because you are better for your horrible meal: fortified, uplifted, and ready to face the myriad surprises and challenges in this most interesting and amazing of all possible worlds.”

She encourages experimentation: “We learn by doing. If you never stuff a chicken with pate, you will never know that it is an unwise thing to do, and if you never buy zucchini blossoms, you will never know that you are missing one of the glories of life.”


Sadly, Colwin died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1992, when she was only 48. (More Home Cooking was published posthumously.) I do wish she’d been around for the last few decades.  I would dearly love to know what she would have had to say about all of the food trends and fads she missed. Alas, we only have these two slim volumes of her food writing to comfort us in her absence…but they’re like delightful missives from a dear friend, charming and encouraging. They’ll make you want to eat, want to cook, and want to live well, and they’re just perfect on a dreary winter day, like a bowl of hot soup or a cup of cocoa.


RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 1/2 Whistles






A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler

A Room With a View, E.M. Forster

An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Malice Aforethought, Frances Iles

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson

Out of the Blackout, Robert Barnard

Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff

Possession, A.S. Byatt

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and Other Modern Verse, Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Tender Bar, J.R. Moehringer

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

What If?, Randall Munroe

Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham


Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com


Lead-In Image Courtesy of Radachynskyi Serhii / Shutterstock.com