Katie Stew

A rich, simmering blend of my favorite things

The Pat Conroy Cookbook

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I just finished “The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes and Stories of My Life”.

It was wonderful.

If I was ever to write a book, I feel like this is the kind of book I would want to write. It is a cookbook in the sense that it is full of recipes, but it is really more like the most enchanting autobiography you’ve ever read. It is full of wonderful, enchanting stories and is sprinkled with a generous helping of recipes that make my mouth water.

Now, I had never heard of Pat Conroy. So when my mother, or I suppose “Santa”, gave me this book for Christmas this year, I was pleased, in that I always love books of any kind and especially cookbooks, but I wasn’t super excited. I should have been. Pat Conroy is the author of such well known books as “The Great Santini”, “The Prince of Tides” and “Beach Music”. He is a lover of the deep South and hails from Beaufort, South Carolina.

I can’t believe that my entry to the world of Pat Conroy is through his cookbook. However, I am now inspired to read everything he has ever written because this book is just so splendid. Who has ever heard of a cookbook making you laugh and making you teary-eyed? The stories are as rich as the recipe for “Dunbar Macaroni” and as charming as the recipe for “Sandra’s mama’s pound cake”.¬†Which is to say, very rich and charming.

This is a book and a cookbook that make you wish you were a southerner, or if you are one, make you wish you were more of a Southerner. Or, in my case as a Southerner far from home, makes me wish I was down south. It makes me think I am overdue for a trip to New Orleans and that it is about time that I go see Georgia.

I love this excerpt from his book:

“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. Then I told my daughter that I never appreciated the South until I left it for the first time. And that the reason you travel is to find out who you really are and what you really believe.”

I think his language is just beautiful, the imagery stunning, and so descriptive that you can taste every morsel that he describes. When he is finished with a food story, you know exactly how light and fluffy the meringue was. You know how salty and subtle the taste of oysters are when they are dug and served on the same day. You know the joys of barbecue and casseroles. You know that you want to be Southern. Most of all, you know the joy that Pat Conroy takes in food, language and life.

He is now on my list of people to invite to my dream dinner party.

Go and get this book. You’ll be glad you did.

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