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Laurie Colwin

She’s been dead since 1992, but Laurie Colwin continues to inspire cult-like followers of her legendary cookbooks, reports Jeff Gordinier in The New York Times (4/2/14). "She’s like the anti-Martha Stewart," says food editor Ruth Reichl. "It’s not about perfection." In fact, it’s not even really about the food. "It was food as a way of gathering people together." Her apartment was tiny and her style improvisational, "dashing out at the last minute to find some flowers, watercress, a chicken."

Laurie’s cooking was "simple, unstylish grub like boiled beef, lentil soup and potato salad." As one fan puts it: "You can’t be a snob when you’re cooking on a hot plate." Her "culinary philosophy" was "born of necessity, since her fridge was the size of a suitcase and her stove had four small burners and a balky oven — and the oven was mainly used for storage." However, she also "prefigured a lot of what the food world is obsessed with now: organic eggs, broccoli rabe, beets and homemade bread, yogurt and jam."

As a writer — her specialty was short stories — the way she shared recipes also foreshadowed blogging. Her recipes are "more like an eccentric form of autobiography." "She was a great cook, but the fiascoes were kind of fabulous," recalls Juris Jurjevics, her husband. "She cooked haggis once that was like the advertisement for ‘Alien,’ with the cracked egg." Laurie died suddenly, of a heart attack, at 48, but her books, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, live on.