THE PAT CONROY COOKBOOK: Recipes of My Life
This fall, four acclaimed novelists are turning their backs on their desks and heading for the kitchen.
This effort from the author of The Great Santini and The P rince of Tides is a joy on several levels. Conroy might not be the first to disguise a memoir as a collection of foodstuffs, but it's hard to imagine a more entertaining, honest and outlandish effort. In 21 chapters and 100 recipes, he traces his masticating, lusting, family-crazed, traveling life from a dysfunctional childhood in the South (with a tyrannical father and a mother who thought of cooking as "slave labor"), to gourmet adventures in Rome, Paris and the table of Alain Ducasse. The book aches with tales of times when eating is at its most urgent: in the face of love, or death, after an all-nighter with the guys or in the company of other great eaters. It's hard not to admire Conroy's innate ability to spin a yarn. And the food's not bad, either. From Conroy's days in the Carolina Low Country there are Crab Cakes and Peach Pie. In Italy, it's Ribollita and Saltimbocca alla Romana. A chapter entitled "Why Dying Down South Is More Fun" suggests proper fare for mourning, such as Pickled Shrimp and Grits Casserole. As Robert Frost might have pointed out, writing prose in a cookbook is like playing tennis without a net. Conroy is free to scatter his memories like buckshot with no real worries of chapter endings, plot lines and character development. In his hands, the technique propels both writer and reader into a state of fullness. Agent, Marly Rusoff. (On sale Nov. 9)