Laurie Colwin's fiction and food writing neatly chronicle messy lives.
A Big Storm Knocked It Over:
by Laurie Colwin
$15.99 List Price
Long before I had any idea that Laurie Colwin was a food writer, I loved her writing about food. I discovered it not in the articles she wrote for Gourmet and other magazines, starting in the ’80s, but in her fiction, each volume of which, if I may borrow one of her titles, is another marvelous thing. They’ve been a part of my life for so long now, in steady rotation on my bedside table and in my brain, that I can’t remember when I read my first one, or even which one it was.
What I do remember, effortlessly, are the meals that animate them. In tales of domestic life, which is what Colwin’s are (in the best sense of that tradition), it’s the day-to-day particulars that provide all the depth. As she writes in a short story narrated by a peripatetic visitor to other people’s country homes, apartments, and dining rooms: “If you are interested in people, their domestic arrangements are of interest, too.” And so we have Polly Demarest, in Family Happiness, who loves her family, her part-time job, and her Park Avenue apartment but is having an affair anyway, bringing a smoked-salmon sandwich to her lover after her extended family’s ritual Sunday breakfast. She’s the good girl of her clan, so her gesture of rebellion is only partially realized: She stops at a deli on the way rather than taking food from her parents’ table. But all indications are that this is just her opening salvo. “Next time,” she announces defiantly, “I’m going to make up a huge sandwich, wrap it in my napkin, and stick it into my bag—right in front of everyone.” Here, food is both a weapon and a token of