Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Low-Country High

The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life
by Pat Conroy with Suzanne Williamson Pollak
Hardcover, 282 pages, (pub. Dec. 2004)

"When I refer to myself as Southern, I am talking about the part of myself that is most deeply human and deeply feeling. It is the part of me that connects most intimately and cordially with the family of humankind. There are qualities of grace and friendship and courtesy that will always seem essentially Southern to me, no matter where I encounter them on the road." (Page 135)

"Paris is a city of words and a secret city of words not written. Signs on buildings give away the names of unknown authors who once lived between those walls. You cannot take a step in Paris without walking on the footprints of a thousand artists and writer who have come before you. It excites every cell in your body; it unnerves you that you are adding your voice to the great simmering bouillon of all the writers who have come before you as the great city and time turn their blind careless eyes toward you." (Page 163)

There are two essential things to know about best-selling author Pat Conroy: first, he’s a storyteller, a raconteur; second, he’s passionate about food and cooking. In this compulsively readable memoir-with-recipes, Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides, opens the window to his life as a writer, a Southerner, an expatriate, a husband, a son, a father, and most of all, gourmand and cook.
It’s a shame this is called the Pat Conroy Cookbook, because while it most certainly includes ravishing recipes, it’s that rare cookbook that serves as autobiography and writer’s guide. Conroy lived in Paris and Italy and recounts his food and adventures abroad, but home will always be his beloved Beaufort, South Carolina. Conroy fans will delight in the Low Country mythology behind his novels and the stories of his family. Not to be missed: the shadow of Hemingway at a Paris bistro, his daughter’s wedding in Beaufort with an appearance by a neighborly alligator, and the small-town boy makes good story behind the publication of his debut novel The Water is Wide. You may be tempted to keep this book in the kitchen - the recipes are top-notch, but while you’re waiting on the ribollita or the pot likker soup, you’ll find yourself curling up on the sofa, reading and re-reading Conroy’s stories, his South Carolina drawl and belly laugh ringing in your ears.

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