Entries from March 1, 2008 - April 1, 2008
When the kids were little I was often bogged down in the dailyness of life. I could work all day and at the end of the day I had very little to show for my efforts. A day spent cleaning, cooking, playing with the kids, seeing friend, praying, teaching, instructing and nurturing didn’t look like much, even though those efforts consumed my time and energy. I would be caught up in the details and lose the big picture of how to enjoy family life. Like a lifesaver tossed just in time to a drowning woman, I stumbled across Laurie Colwin’s wonderful book “Home Cooking”.
I devoured that book. She wrote about food as more than sustenance, making a meal as an act of love after a busy day. At the time Laurie was married, with a young daughter and a thriving writing career. She was busy and yet had time to cook. She had chapters titled Creamed Spinach, How to Fry a Chicken, Feeding a Crowd and Feeding the Fussy. She made the process cooking for my family something beyond the next thing to check off in order to survive that day. An act of creativity, of bring together thought and passion and process to produce something worth the effort. Something that could make a difference and not clutter the house.
I made gingerbread from scratch, with a lovely vanilla sauce. I made beef stew, not a family favorite. Cream spinach can be either comfort food or an elegant side dish. And bread, I baked and baked and baked loaves of her simples bread recipe. Hot dogs, mac and cheese from a box and canned soup appeared less and less on my table. Food prepared: with a knife, spices of my own choosing and time, began to be common fare in our home.
Laurie’s book inspired me and I started branching out on my own. Home cooking, to my surprise was a creative outlet and an intellectual challenge that as a mom of 3 under 4 years of age, I enjoyed. Pancakes can be made without a mix! Spaghetti sauce in a jar can be transform with time, spices, soy sauce and meat into something sublime. Homemade pizza is cheaper and easier to make than you might think. The intellectual challenge in case you were wondering was how to get in and out of the supermarket with 3 small kids in tow and than actually get the food cooked and on the table. Planning for the invasion of Normandy would have been a snap for a mother of multiple preschoolers.
I remember making my first roast beef. I had never spent that much money on a piece of meat before and I was scared to put it in the oven. Roast beef, it turns out, is the perfect prepare-it and forget-it-for-a-while meal. The only thing easier is roasting a turkey.
Laurie died suddenly in 1993. Her last book entitled “More Home Cooking” was published that same year. I still mourn that here will be no new books from this writer to inspire another generation of woman bogged down in the dailyness of life to cook and enjoy the process and the blessing of a well made meal. Both “Home Cooking and More Home Cooking” are available though the used books sellers at amazon.com and barnsandnoble.com.
You can get recipes for anything off the internet. What makes Colwin’s books worthy of your time and shelf space is that she was, and still is a wonderful, inspiring writer. I reread “Home Cooking” every couple of years. Then I head to the kitchen.