Home Cooking: Laurie Colwin on Luxury and Frugality

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
“I do not believe that you have to spend a lot of money to eat well: it is hard to beat a plain old baked potato. But there are things it is worth spending money on.
These are the accessories of cooking, the culinary equivalent of the beautiful handbag or wonderful shoes that make everything else look better. Sweet butter and really good olive oil are worth the money. So are high-quality vinegar (my own favorite is sherry wine vinegar from Spain), sea salt, fresh pepper and fresh herbs. For everyday use I like raw sugar, which tastes like real sugar to me adn not like some supersweet chemical. At holiday time I like to spring for a few fancy things — a little smoked salmon, some fancy biscuits or chocolate pastilles.

These essays were written at a time when it was becoming increasingly clear that many of our fellow citizens are going hungry in the streets of our richest cities. It is impossible to write about food and not think about that.

I hope that those who are lucky to be well fed will find this book useful in feeding family and friends.”

— Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking, published by Harper Perennial

I experienced one of the quintessential thrills of new married life last night when I realized, all in a rush, that I had married into a very good bottle of Laudemio olive oil.

It was used sparingly in my husband’s bachelor kitchen – reserved for dates and special meals. I plan to use it liberally – dashed through green salads, fresh pasta, and pooled with herbs for dipping bread. It’s a delicious oil, and not that expensive in the grand scheme of things. But it is a little luxury, and Colwin’s ending quote here reminded me of precious those kitchen luxuries are.

During September we focused on Home Cooking here at The Kitchn, which was partially a nod to Colwin’s brisk, no-nonsense style of feeding oneself (or a crowd) in our busy modern times.

It was also a reconnection with who we are; we also want to be useful, in a modest way, in helping you feed family and friends. As the financial sectors go through a rocky bit and everyone has money on the brain, we are thinking about being in the kitchen more.

Food, cooking, baking, olive oil, pasta, October pumpkins and the last of the green tomatoes – these are treasures both luxurious and frugal. They don’t cost much, but they yield a great deal – especially when others are involved in the meal. It’s harvest time, and we want you to enjoy the bounty of both giving and receiving these frugal treasures.

We had an unexpected guest for dinner last night and it was another sort of thrill to have a third person sit down at the table with us, to feel the accomplishment of putting a (very simple, very humble) meal on the table.

We want you to feel that thrill too. Before the busy holidays, before the rush of winter, we hope that you have a chance to cook a meal for someone else. Have a debate party, an election morning brunch, a Halloween cocktail soiree, a Sunday afternoon pasta bake – or just eggs on toast with someone you love. It’s a luxury to eat at home; enjoy that and take advantage of it. It’s a month of harvest, and we hope to encourage you to both enjoy the bounty and luxury of harvest and to put its good things to wise, frugal, and sensible use.

Thank you for reading, and for cooking with us.

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