A Woman to Know: Laurie Colwin

No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by cooks of generations past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers. — Laurie Colwin

(image by Nancy Crampton)


Food writers and food lovers alike have worshipped at the altar of Laurie Colwin. Her essays and short stories — many typed up from a mint green typewriter perched at her small kitchen desk — explored more than just family cookbooks and recipe binders. She wrote about the community of food, the joy of preparing a meal for a big crowd, or just for yourself.

Her characters cooked in teensy-tiny New York apartments, where they had to wash dishes in the bathtub; she dreamed up dinner parties with delicious plates piled high with comfort food; her pieces in Gourmet magazine, joking about happy mistakes in the kitchen, endeared her to generations of home chefs. When she unexpectedly passed away in 1992, at just 48 years old, readers flooded the Gourmet office with letters in Laurie's honor. Ruth Reichl, the former restaurant critic and food editor, discovered a trove of these notes in her Gourmet office. She sent them on to the Colwin family, as a tribute to Laurie's legacy.

"You want to be in the kitchen with her — that is her secret," Reichl said of Laurie's writing. "She is the best friend we all want. She never talks down to you."

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** Thank you to Margaret Sullivan for recommending Laurie as a woman to know! And for always supporting this newsletter. And for saying nothing when I eat really loudly at my desk. **

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