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The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life    by Pat Conroy & Suzanne Williamson Pollak order for
Pat Conroy Cookbook
by Pat Conroy
Order:  USA  Can
Nan A. Talese, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Pat Conroy is the author of The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, Beach Music - need I go on? You know to whom I refer. I would read his Rolodex, I like his work so much. He has now written what I consider to be a work of art. The Pat Conroy Cookbook shares with readers the dual love the author has, of food and words. He has perfected the preparation of both and, in this cookbook, gives devoted fans the best of two worlds. One factor overriding all, though, is Conroy's exuberance for life. He finds beauty in the least of things, which he holds in reverence for their existence.

Conroy's first recipes are for chicken, fish and beef stocks. His joy in the discovery of how to make and use stocks is contagious and my first reaction was to use his recipes - immediately, so that I could feel worthy to continue my journey through his life and experience the foods and joys as he did. He writes of Beaufort, South Carolina as the town he chose to be his hometown. An army brat, he moved twenty-three times and felt quite rootless. A compassionate creative writing teacher introduced him to Beaufort and writing and he claims that all his novels sprang 'out of my father's terrible house ... and the day that the town of Beaufort took me in, enfolded me into her history, and let me know in all the aching beauty of her streets and gardens that she was proud to have me call her my hometown.'

Conroy waxes nostalgic about his travels in Italy - in particular, about his leavetaking of Rome after having lived there for a number of years. And of his honeymoon in Umbria. I have only spent a month in Italy, but I can identify with the lust for life and food evident everywhere. Conroy writes of his love affair with Paris - the literary side in particular. He reveled in walking the same streets and eating in the same restaurants as Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein. The foods of Paris became a great influence in his own cooking. Ah, his own cooking. Conroy not only shares his recipes but also his zest for cooking, and delight in eating and sharing good food. With wonderful stories, Conroy introduces to the reader what to him is the best of the best. He considers himself a southern cook. Ain't nothin' wrong with us northerners enjoying a touch of the south.

Like Vidalia onions? Try his recipes for Fried Rings, Salad Rings, and Ring Sandwiches. Then cook Pork Buns, Pot Likker Soup, Southern Ratatouille with Bacon, Collard Greens and, of all things, Candied Bacon. There are too many dishes to list them all, but you have the rest of your life to work your way through this outstanding cookbook. Okay, so you wouldn't cook on a bet? You'll enjoy this book anyway. Pat Conroy's words are to be savored as well as his food.

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