Cookbooks hit you where you live

Molasses spice cookies

This will be my last official blog for EYB so I'm going to indulge by sharing a few things. First, thanks to Jane and Fiona who gave me a venue to share my personal passion for all things food related - I've had a wonderful time writing this blog. And a second thanks to the readers who've sent me some nice compliments, engaged in thoughtful ideas through postings, corrected a few wayward errors, and generally enhanced a community that's wonderful to be a part of.

Of course I also wanted to point out that it has been an honor to be associated with Eat Your Books, which remains one of the best websites online - cleverly designed and extraordinarily useful. And I can't leave without extending my best wishes to Darcie, who will be taking over this blogging space. I couldn't leave it in better hands.

As a final indulgence, since I know we all share a passion for food-related books, I thought I'd share some thoughts about the two food authors that I've read with pleasure for over 20 years - if for no other reason than I'd really would like to make certain they're not overlooked by a new generation:

M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992) has earned praise as a writer well beyond culinary circles. W.H. Auden called her "the best prose writer in America". A New Yorker reviewer of one of the books contained in The Art of Eating wrote, "M.F.K. Fisher writes about food as others do about love, only better." That comment still holds true today. She ultimately published 26 books, read any of them and you will be addicted. Reading Fisher is like plunging into a cool pool on a hot day - sheer pleasure at being in such a strange environment where the sensory is all encompassing, and where you are always kept slightly off balance.

She writes in the first person so most of her writing has autobiographical elements, although clarifying details may or may not be present. But the miracle of Fisher is that despite a life full of tragedies, (the pain of her first divorce, her second husband's suicide after years of chronic illness, an illegitimate child, her brother's suicide, her third husband's mental illness), you finish her books envious of her sheer joy in daily living. She has an extraordinary ability to both become absorbed in and communicate the delight of daily experiences, most of which revolve around food, appetite, cooking, or sharing meals. There is also a trace of the exotic in Fisher, largely because a lot of her writings involve pre -WWII France.

Laurie Colwin, (1944 -1992), by contrast to Fisher, was primarily a fiction writer, having written five novels and short story collections by the time of her untimely death at 48. Her two food books, which came out of articles written for Gourmet, are Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. These are autobiographical and you do learn a lot about her daily life, but she doesn't have Fisher's dramatic life experiences. What she does have is an opinionated, even feisty nature well tempered with an intelligence and warmth that would make any reader want her for a best friend.

She also has great  recipes, about which she is certainly passionate. To me she exemplifies the best of cookbook writing - her recipes work, they require some competency but no advanced skill, and she assumes that you are approaching the dish with the joyful anticipation of sharing great food with loved persons. She is a totally unpretentious writer - the best description of her books is in her own introduction to More Home Cooking, "Cookbooks hit you where you live. You want comfort; you want security; you want food; you want to not be hungry; and not only do you want those basic things fixed, you want it done in a really nice, gentle way that makes you feel loved." Colwin doesn't have Fisher's sex appeal - but rather the warmth of a perpetual hug.

Hope to be talking to you again soon.

Lindsay

 

Photo of Molasses Spice Cookies by Lindsay McSweeney

6 Comments

  • jlh39  on  1/31/2014 at 11:41 AM

    Thank you for highlighting these two authors - especially Laurie Colwin. She should be read by all!

  • boardingace  on  1/31/2014 at 11:54 AM

    Lindsay, best wishes for your future endeavors! I have thoroughly enjoyed your posts and have learned a lot and/or been entertained. I will check out both of these authors and look forward to reading their books!

  • Jane  on  1/31/2014 at 12:08 PM

    We so appreciate everything Lindsay has done for EYB. I actually first approached her to work for us before EYB even started, when she was running the Cook's Illustrated website. She couldn't join us then but contributed so much to the development of the site, without working for us. Then when she went freelance we finally enticed her as our blogger. I've loved reading her daily posts - we will miss her (though she promises to still contribute occasional posts as an interesting subject strikes her).

  • Christine  on  1/31/2014 at 2:45 PM

    I've been meaning to read MFK Fisher for some time now, so thanks for the recommendation and the reminder. You will be missed Lindsay -- wishing you all the best!

  • Jejune  on  1/31/2014 at 3:10 PM

    I've had a copy of "Home Cooking" since about 1994. Laurie was the good friend of a friend of mine ... Thanks for all your blog posts, Lindsay!

  • Queezle_Sister  on  1/31/2014 at 7:52 PM

    Thanks Lindsay. Both authors have been on my "to read" list, and your wonderful descriptions give their titles more urgency. Thanks for everything.

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