Discover more from read, eat, repeat (with emily fiffer)
Anchovy Magic and Adultery
A Dish Fit for Spring + Family Happiness
Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin, pub. 1982
Buy: used copies online or at Bookshop.org
Reading Laurie Colwin is like being hugged by an excellent hugger who also happens to be witty, wry and charming. I’ve long loved Colwin for her books on food (please read Home Cooking and More Home Cooking if you haven’t already!), and decided to move onto her fiction recently because I simply needed more of her in my life (Colwin died tragically young in 1994, at age 48). She writes in the vein of Nora Ephron (but isn’t as sharp-edged), with the lasciviousness of Eve Babitz (but still manages to appear prudish and sweet). Her work is light on the outside but always has a juicy, deep interior, often exposing the inner lives of women. Family Happiness follows Polly Solo-Miller Demarest, a New York woman who by all appearances has life made. She’s convinced herself, and everyone else around her, that she’s thrilled with her circumstances: kind, successful husband; two adorable children; a water-tight extended family unit; a job she enjoys. Despite this suave setup, Polly finds herself in the midst of an affair. The deeper she gets, the more the veneer of her so-called perfect life begins to crumble. She suddenly begins to question everything about the way she was brought up — from her need to please people to what it means to be a family. Someone buy the rights to this book and turn it into a movie, please!
Pairs well with: “lunch breaks,” shower wailing, chocolate cake, phone calls with Mom
This is a condiment I make frequently for dinner parties, and as I type this, I’m getting mad that I don’t make it for myself more often. I’m worth it! So are you. If you don’t like anchovies, stop reading. This is a fish-centric, umami-forward recipe and there’s no way around it. I like to serve it on roasted veg (asparagus is especially delicious and in season right now) and as a dip for crudites (radicchio, radish and fennel are my faves) and crusty bread. It doesn’t photograph well but I think Blackbird Spyplane said brown is back, so…
A couple notes:
You know how Ina Garten says things like use ‘good’ olive oil? I’m going to say use ‘good anchovies’ and I’m going to mean it. It makes a world of difference. If you feel like springing for these, you won’t be sorry.
serves a crowd
many cloves of garlic, smashed and minced (I usually use around half a head…I love garlic!)
2 big shallots, sliced into thin rounds
1 tin (good) anchovies in olive oil (use a small, 50g tin for this recipe)
1 lemon (for juice and zest)
1 wedge parmesan
Heat a few glugs of olive oil (about ¼ cup) in a saute pan over low heat. Add the garlic and shallots and let them simmer and release their tension (never browning!) — I usually let this process go on for awhile, because I love a deeply-yet-softly sauteed allium. Things should start smelling very good at this point. Add the anchovies and their olive oil, breaking them apart with a wooden spoon. Continue sauteeing until the anchovies are broken down, and then cook a few minutes more. You’re looking for a dippable consistency — meaning enough olive oil, yet not so much that the ingredients you want to shine are drowned out. Remove the pan from the heat and add the zest and juice of one lemon. Shave in an amount of parmesan that feels slightly naughty, crack in some black pepper, pour into a presentable bowl, and serve warm.