With the arrival of the Holiday Season, everyone is focused on families, friends, and parties, which usually means food. That’s great because I love to eat; but awful because I’m a lousy cook. I mean world-class lousy. I’m the gal who confused teaspoons and tablespoons in Home Ec. class and braised radishes with too much oregano. (Who braises radishes anyway?) My newlywed cooking turned Meat Loaf into Meat Cake and made my husband a permanent fan of take-out. I’m slowly getting better at the domestic arts but it’s hard overcoming a kitchen philosophy I created years ago that states, “When it comes to cooking, I’d rather read.” Luckily, I live in the South, a region of great writers, as well as great cooks, and, at times, those two fields overlap. When that happens, the results are cookbooks that feed the body as well as the soul.
Cross Creek Cookery
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Recipies of My Life
But literature is more than love and laughter, and so is cooking, as Pat Conroy makes clear. His cookbook, Recipes of My Life describes not just the art of preparing food he came to adore, but how food can become a short-cut to memories of other times, places, and people. I know that myself; a taste of grouper, garnished with almond slices and stuffed with grapes, takes me back to an Augustine restaurant and one of the best dinners and nights of my life. Pat takes his readers through his memories of life and garnishes the experience with recipes that recreate the scenes. Here are the soft-shell crabs and shrimp salad of Beaufort, South Carolina, the Scottiglia and Saltimbocca of Italy, and Eugene Walter’s Pepper obsession. But more than anything, Conroy makes clear how close good writing is to good food. Both are the results of creative thinking and memory, distilled to levels of clinical precision. A recipe, Conroy says, is just a story that ends in a good meal. That is a philosophy that could make me want to learn to cook.‹ ›
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Tell me about the cookbooks you love to read and re-read!