A Sense of Taste, A Sense of Place,

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 I’ve written before about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and her great love-affair with central Florida.  One of the most remarkable chapters of her wonderful book, Cross Creek, recounts Marjorie’s own development from lousy to gifted cook and her joy learning Southern cuisine. The only problem was the book was published during World War II…

The Right Book at the Right Time

There’s a theory that people come into our lives to teach us what we need to know.  They may be people we like or dislike and we may not always care for their lessons but the knowledge we gain from them helps move us through our lives.  I like that theory but I think it needs to be expanded to include books.  Along with entertainment and education, the right book at the right time can change a person’s future.  I’m still giving thanks for a book that came my way about twenty-five years ago.  I’ll always be indebted to Pat Conroy for writing The Prince of Tides. If anyone missed the announcements, Mr. Conroy writes stories about the perennial outsider.  Whether the focus is on a Marine’s family readjusting to a new environment or the English Major in a military college, his people don’t think they fit in the orderly pattern that makes up their world.  Because they don’t fit, Outsiders tend to stay on the defensive. The first lesson in The Prince of Tides  is how defending yourself can cost you everything you care for in life. Tom Wingo, the coach in The Prince of Tides has had good…

To Breathe the Air of Books

I have a condition I think of as “The Book Bug.”  Whenever I approach a large collection of books  or I get my hands on a new one, my pulse jumps, my heartbeat quickens and I seem to get  a slight fever.  I’ve had the condition for decades.  It hit me as a kid whenever Scholastic Books distributed their lists of new paperbacks and I was allowed to purchase two. (My attempts to increase the order provided early lessons in negotiation and the Bug returned when the books were delivered.)  The air around books is rarefied to me and I’ve been known to get a book rush when I enter a big library, a good book store or a list of new book reviews.  I’ll probably need a defibrillator if I ever visit the Library of Congress.  Up till now, I’ve assumed I’m the only one with this silly malady and I’ve been too embarrassed to admit it. Thanks to My Reading Life, I now know it’s a condition I share with the writer, Pat Conroy. Conroy is, of course, one of the novelists whose stories are a combination of  imagination and autobiography and he is the first to admit…

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