Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling


 Cookbook Review   



The Pat Conroy Cookbook:
Recipes of My Life
Pat Conroy with Suzanne Williamson Pollak
Nan A. Talese, 2004
Hardcover, $26.00 (282 pages)
ISBN: 0-385-51413-1

I love to cook. I like to mess up all the pots and pans, cooking sauces that braising beef or lamb or veal, making stuff that tastes so good you want to go from dish to dish, and then just keep on eating until you feel as though you’re going to pop.

Perhaps that’s not too healthy, but it feels good at the time. That’s the way I also am when I get a new Pat Conroy book in my hands. Usually it’s one of those oversized novels that pulls you in like a heavy undercurrent and keeps you going and you never want it to end. With this book, The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life, it’s like you’re sitting down with this wonderful storyteller and he’s telling you all this stuff about how he likes to eat and how he likes to cook. The stories are terrific.

But so are the recipes. As soon as I got the book, my wife Sally grabbed it up and said, “I know Pat knows cooking.” Before I could read the first story she had the recipes for soft-shell crab and some other stuff from his chapter on our friend Nathalie Dupree, as well as Vidalia Onion Dip that’s scrumptious.

The chapter in which Conroy tells of his final encounter with Eugene Walter is priceless. After spending a year in Rome, where he felt Walter’s presence constantly, he finally called him in Mobile, where the two met the following summer. Walter, who was this round delight of a man who was part-clown, part-tragic figure, all genius. He’d played a part in Fellini’s “81/2” in Rome and lived in Mobile until his death. His recipe for bluefin tuna au poivre and peppered new potatoes is fabulous.

Conroy writes of Paris, taking you down the streets where Hemingway strolled, where Satre sat with Simone de Beauvoir, and then gives magnificent recipes of roasted white asparagus with parmigiano-reggiano and sole en papillote, roast chicken with grainy mustard sauce that reminds me of pork shanks in a similar sauce that’s my favorite at Max’s El Tio Lucas in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

After reading this section, Sally made the braised short ribs exactly as Conroy describes them, and they are to die for! Superb! Other than being a terrific dramatist, Conroy is a very poignant writer. His description of the bridesmaid’s luncheon is joyful and delightful. His recipe for cucumber soup is what the ladies call “divine.” And the swordfish salad sounds magnifico, although I have never been a fan of swordfish. But I could eat a pot of squash casserole by itself. And Sandra’s Mama’s pound cake sounds heavenly.

If I had a platter of Conroy’s biscuits, ham, and a pot of grits casserole, they could just box me up and ship me on off -- after a taste or two of George Washington’s punch.

But then I’d have to figure a way to come back for his oyster roast, which makes me salivate when I simply read the words. If you like cooking and reading about good food, or just reading good old-fashioned down-home stories, get a hold of The Pat Conroy Cookbook immediately.



Wayne Greenhaw
Southern Scribe Reviews

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