Life and Times
Laurie Colwin lived from 1944 – 1992. She wrote two cookbooks. She has acquired a very dedicated following; many of her readers felt her death as a personal loss.
Laurie was born in Manhattan on 14 June 1944. Her parents were Peter Colwin and Estelle Woolfson.
At various times, she lived on Long Island, in Chicago and in Philadelphia, but she returned to Manhattan to live in the Soho area. She had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, and at Columbia University.
She and her husband Juris Jurjevics (who was Latvian) were Jewish; they had one daughter; Rosa.
Laurie had worked as a translator from Yiddish to English for the poet Isaac Bashevis Singer, and worked as an editor for various publishers including Putnam, Pantheon, Viking Press and E. P. Dutton.
Her first short story was published in the New Yorker magazine in 1969 when she was only 24 years old.
She went on to write a column on food Gourmet magazine. Titles of her columns included “Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant” and “Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir.” Her final column in Gourmet appeared a month after her death. Much of the content in her two cookbooks was first published as columns in Gourmet magazine.
Her cookbooks are really culinary essays about food and eating: cozy, personal reflections written in a conversational style on various food topics from chocolate cake to Thanksgiving dinners to potato salad. The recipes, almost an afterthought, are simple and quirky. She picks dishes that interest her: gingerbread, Southern Fried Chicken, and breadmaking. She dedicates a whole chapter to potato salad, and lists a recipe for Brownies which she says is the one that Katharine Hepburn used.
She died of heart failure at the age of 48 on 24 October 1992, and was buried in Cornwall, Connecticut.
She is read and admired by other cooks such as Nigella Lawson, who included Colwin’s Black Cake recipe in her own (Lawson’s) book, How to Be a Domestic Goddess.
Though none of Laurie’s books ever made a top best-seller list, they were all still in print as of 2003. In her fiction, she dwelt on character development.
1988. Home Cooking
1993. More Home Cooking (published posthumously)
1974. Passion and Affect (short story collection)
1975. Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (novel)
1978. Happy All the Time (novel)
1981. The Lone Pilgrim (short story collection)
1982. Family Happiness (novel)
1986. Another Marvellous Thing (short story collection)
1990. Goodbye without Leaving (novel)
1994. A Big Storm Knocked It Over (novel, published posthumously)
Literature & Lore
“I am no superwoman, but I like to cook and… while I like a nice meal, I do not want to be made a nervous wreck in the process of producing one. I like dishes that are easy, savory, and frequently cook themselves.” — Laurie Colwin, in “Home Cooking”.
Yardley, Jonathan. Laurie Colwin: A Story Too Short but Still in Print. Washington Post. 1 July 2003.