by Pat Conroy with Suzanne Williamson Pollak. (Doubleday, 2004)
reviewed by Augusta R. Scattergood
As it turns out, novelist Pat Conroy can do more than just write. In his newest book, the author of Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and more, wows us with favorite restaurants, recipes, food musings and family stories. From Paris to Atlanta to Umbria, he’s eaten in some pretty good establishments, and the stories he shares are not to be missed. With the usual Conroy flair for the dramatic, he’s had chef Sara Moulton as an assistant before the rest of us discovered she knew how to cook. He’s eaten at one of Emeril’s restaurants before most people knew there was an Emeril. And he’s cooked for wives (his own and his friends’), children, editors and chefs with great success.
Pat Conroy fans know about his relationship with his father and the depiction of him in The Great Santini. But to read of a son’s loving preparation of SHRIMP AND GRITS as friends and family gathered all summer in Beaufort, South Carolina, to say goodbye to Colonel Donald Conroy is to realize that all family relationships, even the most calamitous, can be mended.
Take care not to get so caught up in essays in The Pat Conroy Cookbook that you overlook the recipes, however. Don’t let reading about an Italian waiter’s acrobatic move with extra virgin olive oil on a plate distract you from the BRUSCHETTA or the BUCATINI ALL’AMATRICIANA. You’ll be charmed by “My First Novelist,” but read to the end of that chapter and try the ROASTED BEETS WITH BLUE CHEESE AND SHERRY VINAIGRETTE. Pat Conroy’s life in food is a story worth hearing.
When his untraditional, madcap daughter requests a large Beaufort wedding, complete with friends and lots of family as bridesmaids, Pat Conroy does not disappoint her. The story of this event is poignant, elegant and funny. The food is the same. From the soup made with Beaufort cucumbers that connect him to the Low Country, to the POUND CAKE recipe from his current wife’s mother, a legendary Southern cook whom he regrets never meeting, we are drawn into the author’s life by the food he creates. After all, there may be other fathers who prepare SQUASH CASSEROLE and SWORDFISH SALAD for their daughter’s Bridesmaids’ Luncheon, but I doubt there’s another whose story will delight you like the one told by Megan Elizabeth Conroy’s father.
Gusty Russel Scattergood, a native Mississippi Deltan and retired librarian, writes monthly book reviews for USADEEPSOUTH and other publications. Read more of her reviews at USADEEPSOUTH by clicking here: USADS BOOKS
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