The Pat Conroy Cookbook

Pat Conroy with Suzanne Williamson Pollak
Doubleday, 2004

How does he do it? How does he make love and humor sound sincere with a vocabulary writing teachers would call pretentious, sometimes nearing trite? . . .my passel of fine and comely wives.(?) How does he juggle the main plot of cooking and how food has changed his life with the strong subplot that teaches writing techniques? Perhaps the answer is the same way he has written some of the most finely told stories of contemporary life on his shelf of published books.

The “how” questions of this book are the puzzles of technique and true voice writers individually develop by whatever means available. Conroy’s voice is worth reading for a new writer, even in a cookbook. Notice example, context, and tone in this book right along with how many cardamom seeds to count.

A pleasure of this book is the vicarious inclusion in the colorful, joyous life Conroy has created for himself and allowed us to temporarily join. The bursting personalities he describes, along with the occasional name dropping, is a vicarious pleasure to this suburban, tract home resident. Other pleasures are the sensual, story-laced cooking lessons and recipes. A few I’ll try, a few I’ll pass (I had my own version of Dunbar Macaroni during childhood and early marriage that I never had Conroy’s affection for), and a few, like crab cakes, I’ve been making for years, but now I know their poetic attachment for Conroy.

A mental note I took away from this book is how clearly Conroy felt mistreated, defeated and unloved by his father during childhood and though it was defining, it was not limiting. His life story appears to be mistreatment objectified to success. Main plot: How to increase the pleasure of gumbo. Subplot: How to forgive, accept, and honor love without ever saying the words. Observing technique and being able to learn where you can is all a book presents though that can be the most precious gift of all.

A disappointment of this book is the total lack of recipe table of contents or index, Unless the reader takes the time to make a personal reference of recipes, they are lost when the last page is read. And so perhaps is Conroy’s invitation to join him as he closes the door when we leave.

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17 Responses to The Pat Conroy Cookbook

  1. Conroy’s life is one more lesson about how important it is to be loving, present, nurturing parents. Abuse, rejection, dejection–all lead to unhappy lives. How can you ever really forgive? The recipes really should have been indexed or better organized, I agree. Great post. I just get so mad at ‘rents who screw up their kids!

  2. Yes, God bless the child who has enough inner world to push himself through it. I don’t defend cruel parents but I do think it has only been since WWII that parents have given parenthood much thought. We’re all such an odd mix of our childhoods. You raise a very interesting question with can we really forgive. I’ll think about that.

  3. Holy moley. This an excellent review.

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    I haven’t read anything by him since Beach Music, but I should, because he is indeed a brilliant writer.

  5. tchistorygal says:

    What a wonderful review. After writing several reviews, I realize how difficult it is to do, and this one tells just enough about the book to make me curious. I’m not a cookbook collector, but his personal story, and the tease of hints for writers is almost enough to get me to invest in the book. Thanks for dropping by my site. I’ll be following yours, scouring every post for ways to improve my writing and my blog. :)

    • Thank you for coming by. There are so many blogs you can get lost out there I’ve discovered. Thanks also for the book review words. Sometimes they are hard for me, too, so that’s why I’ve limited them to about 500 words.

      • tchistorygal says:

        That’s a good tip. I’ve learned that the notes I take to remember what I read are way too much. A friend of mine suggested doing a power point – on professional book reviews. Anyway, I like your style.

  6. What an interesting sounding book! Must be the review! And how many wives does the guy have?

  7. Nona says:

    Great review -Pat Conroy always writes such beautiful stories. This is one I am anxious to read.

  8. Nona says:

    Reblogged this on From Nona With Love and commented:
    Great Review on “The Pat Conroy Cookbook” – about the author, not cooking.

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