Monday, July 3, 2017


The people in Laurie Colwin's writings read, take walks, soak in bath tubs, fly kites, listen to vinyl records with scratches in them, and actively pursue one another.  They do this despite having awkward or uncomfortable feelings.  They sally forth, come what may.  Conse-
quently they wind up feeling many, many emotions, sometimes simultaneously. Her Manhattan is intimate.

What has driven me to re-enter this blog, on the eve of Independence Day, is the "Repulsive Dinners: A Memoir" chapter in Colwin's nonfiction collection Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen.

At a dinner party in London, Colwin and other unwitting guests are served a casserole "contain[ing] a layer of partially cooked rice, a layer of pineapple rings and a layer of breakfast sausages, all of which was cooked in a liquid of some sort or other."

She writes:  "We ate in perfect silence, first in shock, then in amazement, and then in gratitude that not only was there not enough to go around, but that nothing else was forthcoming. That was the entire meal."

To the friend who invited her to join the party, she asks afterwards, over pizza pies, " 'Is that some sort of Scottish dish we had tonight?', to which he replies, 'No, it is a genius dish.' "

Colwin's first impression of the man who had cooked the meal? He was "a glum, geniusy-looking person."

Geniusy touched off several words in me: gĂ©nial, genuine, gentian, genoise.  Also pleurisy, sinus, and dusy.

My guess is that geniusy stood as an abstract noun for many decades, possibly even centuries, before morphing (usage-wise) into an adjective.

A photograph from the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection at the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress is an agency of the legislative branch of the U.S. government.
Shown above is a Schrafft's at the Parke-Bernet Building, 980 Madison Avenue.
Photographer: Either Samuel H. Gottscho or William H Schleisner (?).
Publication date: Friday, December 22, 1950.