"I love to eat out, but even more, I love to eat in. The best dinner party I ever went to was a black-tie affair to celebrate a book, catered by the author's sister. When we sat down in our long dresses and tuxedos, my heart failed. What sort of fancy something or other were we going to get?
I remembered the sad story told to me by a colleague who went to a white-tie dinner and received, for the main course, one half of a flounder fillet.
When the food appeared at this party I could scarcely contain my delight. It was home food! The most delicious kind: a savory beef stew with olives and buttered noodles, a plain green salad with a wonderful dressing, and some runny cheese and chocolate mousse for dessert. Heaven!
-- Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking, published by Harper Perennial
Last weekend I cooked brunch for several of my soon-to-be-husband's colleagues. It might have been a little crazy to have guests on the last weekend morning before my wedding, but it seemed essential to find some kind of peace and normality in the rhythms of eggs and coffee, fresh-baked bread and new butter, peaches and Concord grapes from the farmers market. My guests were fed well and very grateful, but I was uncomfortable with the thanks and compliments. I had just been looking for a way back to myself in a hectic time.
There is something about giving and receiving home food that returns us to a centered place. Fancy food, prepared food, too much restaurant food - whatever that may be for you or me - can distract me from the rhythms that help me be most like myself. There is something good and nourishing about returning to the home kitchen in times of stress; and home food, like Colwin illustrates above, has a delightful side effect of encouraging community.
We're serving home food at our wedding this weekend - beet and cabbage coleslaw, roast pork, autumn vegetables, big bowls of pasta. (My husband-to-be is a pasta guy through and through.) We're serving family style so that this home food is passed from hand to hand down long tables of our friends and family members, each nourishing one to the next.
We hope that our home food inspires the same sort of reaction as Colwin's relieved delight - delicious, comforting, nourishing to receive in the company of friends. But maybe that's too much to ask - it's just food, after all. Eaten once, soon forgotten. And yet even that is enough - it's enough to nourish people and perhaps it's far better that they forget the food and remember the company and the pleasure of one another instead.
Home food and home cooking - it's The Kitchn this month. Eat in this week and this weekend - have a friend or two over. Open a bottle of wine and enjoy the good pleasures of the home table. We'll be right there with you.
• Buy Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, $12 at Amazon
(Image: Faith Hopler)