I’m reading The Pat Conroy Cookbook, Recipes of My Life right now. I just read him for the first time over the Christmas holiday when I stole my Aunt Julie’s copy of South of Broad, her gift from my Uncle Jeff, before she could get her hands on it. I’d heard of Conroy before, I’m sure most people have. Prince of Tides: Barbara Streisand, Nick Nolte. But that was all I knew, and I never actually saw the movie.
I was hooked after the first paragraph.
His words, his sentences, the way he fits them together to evoke images and emotions are truly a gift, to the one who possesses it and those who it is shared with. I consider myself lucky to have collective and personal memories of some of the places that Conroy holds dear to his heart, they are in mine as well. I spent summers in the South Carolina low country. I spent my summer breaks playing in the inter-coastal waterways, where violent and beautiful summer storms sparked by afternoon humidity and low pressure systems moving off the coast lit up the sky and shuttered in my soul. Thunder storms still make me feel like I am 8 years old laying in the hallway underneath the skylight in my Grandma Ann’s house on Hilton Head Plantation.
I had to leave my Aunt Julie’s house half way through South of Broad—because of work, not because of the book. As soon as I got home I ordered my own copy from Amazon. I usually can’t stand being up-sold but Amazon got me this time, and I am glad they did. It was brought to my attention that people who bought South of Broad also like Recipes of My Life. I’m half way through Recipes of My Life and I love it. The short stories accompanying each recipe are so delicious you could scoop them off the page with a spoon.
“The making of stock is for poets and philosophers, dreamers and deep thinkers with a dinner party coming up populated by only people you love.” Pat Conroy, Recipes of My Life
I’m sitting on my couch with the smell of thyme rising from the chicken stock simmering on my stove. Like finally getting around to reading Conroy, cooking is something I’ve always wanted to do. I mean real cooking. I can prepare meals but cooking is different. I’m sitting here writing while the stock is wafting through my house, and I’m wondering what took me so long. The smell is wrapped around me like a blanket. It is new and old at the same time. I started with the chicken, picked it a part, like a moment that unfolds into a story. I halved and quartered the onion, pulled its layers back like revealing the subtext of those moments in a story, with tears in my eyes. I added in the supporting cast, carrots and celery, and gave the leading role, accidentally to thyme. This story isn’t over yet and I don’t know what I’m going to make with my chicken stock, but like any good story, you don’t know exactly what you are going to get out of it until it’s done.