Gift Ideas for the Every Day Cook

cocktailI don’t mean everyday, as in common, I mean that person on your gift list who cooks for loved ones every day.  These are not foodies, per se, but people who enjoy preparing home cooked meals…well, most of the time anyway.

They cook from a place of love, they derive pleasure from preparing meals that not just nourish, but also bring family and friends together.

Let’s thank that dedicated meal preparer in your life with two largely unknown books about home cooking.

Home Cooking                               More Home Cooking

by Laurie Colwin

You may have never heard of Laurie Colwin, she never gained the notoriety of more famous food icons such as Julia Child or Ina Garten.  Best know as a novelist, Ms. Colwin’s two volumes of food essays continue to sell largely due to word-of-mouth recommendations from food enthusiasts who cherish these two volumes.  Many of these essays first appeared in the now out-of-business (sob!) Gourmet magazine.  Sadly, Ms. Colwin died of heart failure in 1992 at the age of 48.

We enter Ms. Colwin’s world warily at first — after all, her minuscule New York apartment reveals that her stove is used for storage and dish washing must be done in the bathtub.  But, soon her chatty, open and often humorous essays have you feeling right at home, perched on her counter, sipping a glass of beer, warmly embraced by her radiant joy of food.

Ruth Reichl, the writer, former Gourmet magazine (sob!) editor and New York Times restaurant critic, said it best: “You want to be in the kitchen with her — that is her secret. She is the best friend we all want. She never talks down to you.”

She talks of simple, homey food such as black beans, lentil soup, potato salad and this — “There is nothing like roast chicken. It is helpful and agreeable, the perfect dish no matter what the circumstances. Elegant or homey, a dish for a dinner party or a family supper, it will not let you down.”

She goes on to describe one of her most memorable meals– “beef stew and buttered noodles, runny cheese, and plain green salad with wonderful dressing.”  (Hungry yet?)

There is no pretension here, she won’t pretend that the boring bits of cooking are a higher calling; “It is wise to have someone you adore talking to you in the kitchen while you make these eggs,” she writes, “or to be listening to something very compelling on the radio.”

Of course, there are recipes, my two volumes are studded with markers and pencil checks…but there is also honesty and failure.  Ms. Colwin never shies away from recounting her very funny cooking disasters.  There is one dinner, prepared with friends under the influence, which was so inedible that her guests mutinied and they all went out to dinner.

To Ms. Colwin, the point of cooking is eating–eating with family and friends, definitely, but she also admits to eating straight from the cooking pot, ravenous and gloriously alone.

This quote below best captures the tone of the essays in Home Cooking and More Home Cooking.   “I was taught in my Introduction to Anthropology [a college course], it is not just the Great Works of mankind that make a culture. It is the daily things, like what people eat and how they serve it.”

This Christmas, please honor your every day cook — come to the table with your hunger, lots of compliments, a bottle of wine and these two volumes.


I am hoping Santa will bring me this newest culinary treasure from another down-to-earth cook, Ruth Reichl.





Now, if you’ll excuse me, this every day cook has gotta go make dinner.

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