I am making roast chicken for dinner. This gives me the opportunity to write about two of my favorite books of all time.
I make my roast chicken following the directions provided by Laurie Colwin in her great book More Home Cooking. She advises slow roasting on a low heat for at least two hours, a method which has never failed to result in a lovely juicy chicken. Colwin advises stuffing the chicken with half a lemon, but I use half an onion instead. I do follow her suggestion to sprinkle the bird with paprika, and baste frequently.
More Home Cooking, and an earlier book by Colwin called Home Cooking are collections of her columns from Gourmet magazine, written in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. They are not traditional cookbooks. Instead, while they do contain some recipes, they are mostly Colwin's ramblings about food and how it fits into family, friendships, and life. Colwin's stories are comforting, accessible, inspiring, unpretentious, funny, and delightful. I love these books with all my heart and they are two of the very few books that I will occasionally re-read. I have given them as gifts to so many people so many times that I have lost track, and thus once presented my aunt with Home Cooking two years in a row.
My favorite essay in Home Cooking is called Feeding the Multitudes, where Colwin describes her weekly stint cooking lunch in a women’s homeless shelter, and which ends with a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie for 150 (“Chop 10 large onions and 4 bulbs of garlic…”).
Laurie Colwin was a gifted writer who wrote several novels in the 1980’s, mostly about life in New York, and about families. Unfortunately she died at the age of 48, in 1992. I consider her death a great loss to the world of fiction and food writing. But a quick check of Amazon.com tells me that most of her books are still in print, including Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. That makes me happy.