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The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes and Stories of My Lifeby Pat Conroy
Synopses & Reviews
The first actual cooking teacher who took both my money and my grief for imparting culinary secrets to me was the inimitable, unclassifiable queen of the Southern kitchen, Nathalie Dupree. Though Nathalie does not know this, she is one of the few people in my life who seems more like a fictional character than a flesh-and-blood person.
When my novel Beach Music came out in 1995, I had included a couple of recipes in the book, and had tried to impart some of my love of Roman cuisine and the restaurants of Rome. Several journalists who write about food for newspapers interviewed me about the food angle in the novel, curious about the fact that the book's protagonist, Jack McCall, wrote cookbooks and restaurant reviews. A woman from the Washington Post conducted a delightful interview over the phone, and during our conversation, I mentioned that I had taken Nathalie's course in the cooking school she ran in the old Rich's department store in downtown Atlanta. The woman called Nathalie after our interview, and Nathalie tracked me down to report on the nature of their conversation.
Nathalie's voice is deep and musical and seductive. She possesses the rare ability to be both maddening and hilarious in the course of a single sentence. Her character is a shifting, ever-changing thing, and she reinvents herself all over again every couple of years. In one way, she seems the same, yet you are aware she is in the process of a complete transformation. When she tells about her life, you could swear she was speaking of a hundred women, not just one.
"Pat, darling," Nathalie said on the phone, "all my working life I've been scheming and plotting and dreaming of ways to get an interview with the food editor of the Washington Post. You can imagine my joy when I heard that the food editor of the Post had left a message on my answering machine. And I thought, Yes, it's finally happening; your prayers have been answered, Nathalie."
"That's great, Nathalie," I said, not quite knowing where she was going with this. You never know where Nathalie is going with a train of thought; you simply know that the train will not be on time, will carry many passengers, and will eventually collide with a food truck stalled somewhere down the line on damaged tracks.
"Can you imagine my disappointment when I found out that they wanted to interview me about you, instead of about me. I admit, Pat, that after I got over the initial shock, it turned suddenly to bitterness. After all, what do I possibly get out of talking about you when I could be talking about my own cookbooks? Naturally, I did not let on a word about what I was really thinking, but I did suggest, very subtly I might add, that she might want to do a feature on me and my work sometime in the future. When were you in my class, Pat?"
"In 1980," I said.
"I don't remember that. Did you really take my class? Who else was in it?"
"My wife Lenore. Jim Landon. George Lanier. A nice woman who lived on the same floor as my dad in the Darlington Apartments."
"It doesn't ring a bell for me," she said. "Was I good?"
"You were wonderful," I said.
"All my ex-students say that. It must be a gift."
America's favorite storyteller, Pat Conroy, is back with a unique cookbook that only he could conceive. Delighting us with tales of his passion for cooking and good food and the people, places, and greatmeals he has experienced, Conroy mixes them together with mouthwatering recipes from the Deep South and the world beyond.
It all started thirty years ago with a chance purchase of "The EscoffierCookbook, " an unlikely and daunting introduction for the beginner. But Conroy was more than up to the task. He set out with unwavering determination to learn the basics of French cooking-stocks anddough-and moved swiftly on to veal demi-glace and pate briseeacute;e. With the help of his culinary accomplice, Suzanne Williamson Pollak, Conroy mastered the dishes of his beloved South as well as thecuisine he has savored in places as far away from home as Paris, Rome, and San Francisco.
Each chapter opens with a story told with the inimitable brio of the author. We see Conroy in New Orleanscelebrating his triumphant novel "The Prince of Tides" at a new restaurant where there is a contretemps with its hardworking young owner/chef-years later he discovered the earnest young chef wasnone other than Emeril Lagasse; we accompany Pat and his wife on their honeymoon in Italy and wander with him, wonderstruck, through the markets of Umbria and Rome; we learn how a dinner with his fighter-pilot father waspreceded by the Great Santini himself acting out a perilous night flight that would become the last chapters of one of his son's most beloved novels. These tales and more are followed by correspondingrecipes-from Breakfast Shrimp and Grits and Sweet Potato Rolls to Pappardelle with Prosciutto and Chestnuts and Beefsteak Florentine to Peppered Peaches and Creme Brulee. A master storyteller and passionate cook, Conroy believes that "A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal."
"This book is the story of my life as it relates to the subject of food. It is my autobiography infood and meals and restaurants and countries far and near. Let me take you to a restaurant on the Left Bank of Paris that I found when writing "The Lords of Discipline. "There are meals I ate in Rome whilewriting "The Prince of Tides" that ache in my memory when I resurrect them. There is a shrimp dish I ate in an elegant English restaurant, where Cuban cigars were passed out to all the gentlemen in theroom after dinner, that I can taste on my palate as I write this. There is barbecue and its variations in the South, and the subject is a holy one to me. I write of truffles in the Dordogne Valley in France, cilantro inBangkok, catfish in Alabama, scuppernong in South Carolina, Chinese food from my years in San Francisco, and white asparagus from the first meal my agent took me to in New York City. Let me tell you about the fabulousthings I have eaten in my life, the story of the food I have encountered along the way. . . "
About the Author
PAT CONROY is the bestselling author of The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and My Losing Season.
SUZANNE WILLIAMSON, the author of Entertaining for Dummies, was the spokesperson for Federated Department Stores on the subject of cooking and home entertaining.
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