Cookbooks

Gift guide

Cookbooks

The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life

by Pat Conroy with Suzanne Williamson Pollak

Doubleday, 263 pp., $26

I've been a devoted fan of Pat Conroy's fiction since being inspired by The Water Is Wide while I was studying elementary education at UT many years ago. As I devoured each eagerly awaited book, I learned that Conroy's fiction is often enriched by the emotional experiences of his personal life. When his fictional characters began to demonstrate a passion for food and cooking, I suspected we might be kindred spirits. I already knew we were both Southerners, but Conroy appeared to be revealing a profound love of food and the pleasure of sharing it with others – something else we certainly have in common. My suspicions were confirmed with the arrival of Conroy's cookbook, which he describes as his "autobiography in food." Once it arrived, I couldn't put it down, vicariously spending an entire weekend with the author and all the folks with whom he loves to cook and eat. Conroy makes the point that a "recipe is just a story with a good meal at the end," and goes on to serve up hilarious stories, poignant anecdotes, and revealing vignettes sauced and garnished with mouth-watering recipes. "Why Dying Down South Is More Fun" leads to pickled shrimp, a unique macaroni, and country ham with bourbon glaze. The touching story about Conroy preparing the bridesmaids' luncheon for his daughter Megan's wedding brings forth cucumber soup, swordfish salad, and an heirloom pound cake recipe. There's everything from low country oyster roasts to Roman home cooking, all from the pen of a master storyteller. Read this book, cook from it, savor it. It's a wonderful read, and it eats every bit as good as it reads. I am once again totally smitten. And, Mr. Conroy, if you go before I do, I'll be proud to come to your funeral and bring pickled shrimp.

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