I found this book humorous but melancholy. I kept thinking about Colwin’s sudden death at such a young age. Perhaps (not perhaps—most assuredly) it has something to do with an approaching birthday that inches me toward the age of forty-eight, the age of Colwin’s death.
Her writing was so prolific during her short life and I wonder what else she could have accomplished. In a 2003 article in the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley states:
A decade after her lamentably premature death, Laurie Colwin enjoys a distinction that eludes all but the luckiest among living writers: All her books are still in print. Never a best-selling writer, she attracted an ardent following that has remained steadfast and recruits new devotees by word of mouth.
For the complete article, click here. Thank goodness CTB’s word-of-mouth introduced me to Colwin’s writing.
So, back to Home Cooking and the task at hand—writing this CTB post.
After finding myself alone for more than a week while The Hubs traveled out of state for his job, I found myself eating alone a lot (mostly eating unhealthy crap) which brought me back to Colwin’s essay on eating solo, “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.”
She made it sound like such a joy, and surely I have (when time allowed) relished some of my alone time in the kitchen, whipping up a pumpkin soup or an Asian inspired noodle dish (or Croque Monsieur) and eating it at a single place setting.
That chapter brought me back to some times growing up when it would just be mom and me at home. She would poach us eggs, open a can of tomato juice, and toast some bread. The dish would be assembled by putting the poached egg on toast and then dousing it in warmed tomato juice. It was heaven!
Colwin describes dinner alone as a time to delve into one’s deepest and weirdest desires:
Dinner alone is one of life’s pleasures. Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.
Well, I am not sure about those combinations, but I can tell you that warmed tomato juice over toast is to die for!
When mom was visiting recently, she found a recipe in Sunset and said, “Let’s make this for breakfast!” She had found “Caprese Skillet Eggs” in the August edition. We made the recipe (found here) and had them for breakfast served on some toasted English muffins. Not only did it remind me of those long ago lost suppers with mom, but it was also very close to Colwin’s recipe for “Sauteed Vegetables and Poached Egg in One Pot.”
Caprese Skillet Eggs
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. chopped onion
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
4 large farm fresh eggs
1/2 c. shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. mixed chopped fresh basil, oregano, and chives
Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have softened and released their juices, about 5 minutes.
Use a spoon to make 4 wells in the tomato mixture and crack an egg into each. Cover pan and cook until whites are firm and yolks are just starting to set, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and cover again to melt cheese slightly, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with herbs and serve with toast.
Although we didn’t verbalize it, I know we were both thinking of those nights at home that found us alone and cooking a simple meal for ourselves. This was delicious meal that we used heirloom tomatoes from mom’s garden, fresh herbs from my garden, harvested onions, and eggs from the FM.
I might throw in a pepper or two the next time I make this.
Home Cooking has joined the ranks of one of my many dog-eared books. I loved her essay on “Feeding the Fussy” and laughed my way through it:
Vegetarians, for example, are enough to drive anyone crazy. Like Protestants, they come in a number of denominations.
And, I continued laughing through the foodie stories from Hell from “Kitchen Disasters.” Colwin retells her attempt at using food to capture her beloved’s heart. She, with no knowledge or instructions, decides to stuff a red snapper with grapes, shrimp and fermented black beans. The result?
When it finally emerged from the oven, this fish looked like Hieronymus Bosch’s vision of hell, with little nasty-looking things spilling out into a pallid-looking puddle of undercooked fish juices.
Haven’t we all been there?
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and in closing, I just have to add that this woman loved her some paprika! Thank you Deb from Kahakai Kitchen for recommending Home Cooking, introducing me to Laurie Colwin’s writing, and hosting this month’s round.
The next CTB read is Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Jo of Food Junkie Not Junk Food is giving us a glimpse of a food writer’s life gone bad with this novel. Jo says, “Heartburn is the bittersweet story of Rachel Samstat, a food writer, who discovers that her husband Mark has been having an affair with another woman, whilst she is VERY pregnant. The worse part is that it is not just a fling, but a relationship which has been going on for some time and is not about to end. Nora Ephron’s Heartburn is actually based on her own disastrous four-year marriage to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein and is a funny, witty, heartbreaking, and mouthwatering story all at once.”
Postscript: I heard last night at our football game that August: Osage County (yes, I am obsessed by this filming) is going to shoot in one of the small towns that makes up our district. It is possibly going to wreak havoc on our afternoon bus routes. Don’t you think that the principals need to meet with Producer George Clooney to work this all out? Yessiree, Bob!