Have you ever felt close to someone that you never met. And sadly never will.
With a few sentences Laurie Colwin became my friend. Years ago, I would open my Gourmet magazine and go straight to her column. I have always read cookbooks, just as though they were novels. Hers truly were. A little bit of life, love, common sense, and then something delicious that you wanted to dash into the kitchen and begin to prepare. Laurie filled minds, hearts and stomachs.
These were not recipes that would require you to head off in search of exotic ingredients. Most likely you had everything in your very own cupboards. No need to be an accomplished chef or baker either. You could do it.
Laurie’s food writing was compiled and published in two books “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking”. Search for them. You won’t be disappointed.
Laurie passed away on October 24th, 1992 at the age of 48. I will always remember the moment I heard and my first thought of “her beloved husband and daughter”. She wrote of them often and I didn’t want to imagine the hole that this “heart of the home” woman would have left.
But, she also left us better for having had her in our lives. And she lives on in the hearts and kitchens of many.
I will leave you with a few of her words and her delicious recipe for gingerbread. Perfect for a winter day.
There is nothing to be said about mixes: they are uniformly disgusting. Besides, gingerbread made from scratch takes very little time and gives back tenfold what you put into it. Baking gingerbread perfumes a house as nothing else. It is good eaten warm or cool, iced or plain. It improves with age, should you be lucky or restrained enough to keep any around.
Gingerbread exists in some form or other all throughout northern Europe. Florence White’s classic Good Things in England, for example, has twelve recipes. Mrs. Mary Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife, published in 1824, has three. It is definitely food for a cold climate. Its spicy, embracing taste is the perfect thing for a winter afternoon. Ginger warms up your stomach (and is believed by many to purify the blood). When you serve it, once they have stopped giving you a funny look, people often say: 'Gingerbread! I haven’t had that since I was a child.' "If you are feeding sophisticates, you can either take them back to childhood and serve it plain with a little whipped cream, or fancy it up by adding crème fraîche and a poached Seckel pear.
The following recipe makes one nine-inch cake:
2. Beat in two eggs.
3. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and one very generous tablespoon of ground ginger (this can be adjusted to taste, but I like it very gingery). Add one teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice.
4. Add two teaspoons of lemon brandy. If you don’t have any, use plain vanilla extract. Lemon extract will not do. Then add 1/2 cup of buttermilk (or milk with a little yogurt beaten into it) and turn batter into a buttered tin.
5. Bake at 350 degrees [F.] for between twenty and thirty minutes (check after twenty minutes have passed). Test with a broom straw, and cool on a rack.
"This will feed six delicate, well-mannered people with small appetites who are on diets and have just had a large meal, or four fairly well-mannered people who are not terribly hungry. Two absolute pigs can devour it in one sitting – half for you and half for me – with a glass of milk and a cup of coffee and leave not a crumb for anyone else." Laurie Colwin