It has been a long time since I have had the urge to write. I can’t explain it, and it is never because of a lack of ideas or inspiration. But, upon learning that Pat Conroy died, something has stirred inside of me again. Maybe it is an internal feeling I have of what better way to honor a writer than to write. Maybe it is a way for me to share the passion I share with Pat, and that indescribable bond you can feel to a person you have never even met, a bond made of nothing except a feeling you have.
Many of us know Pat Conroy for Prince of Tides, Lords of Discipline, and The Great Santini. Some of my favorites of his are The Water is Wide and Beach Music. But above all of the novels he wrote re-telling pieces of his broken childhood, my absolute favorite book of his is appropriately titled Recipes of My Life, The Pat Conroy Cookbook. In this, he tells his stories, and his passion for cooking, and how both combined into an undeniable force. His words are powerful, and stirring. He writes with such emotion, and what I love the most is I know he cooked with the same emotion, too. “Home is a damaged word, bruisable as fruit, in the cruel glossaries of the language I choose to describe the long, fearful march of my childhood. Home was a word that caught in my throat, stung like a paper cut, drew blood in its passover of my life, and hurt me in all the soft places. My longing for home was as powerful as fire in my bloodstream.”
This is one of the many cookbooks I cherish most. It is one of the few I actually use. It is the one that doesn’t get stored like all the others, neatly slid into the shelf. It sits open on the shelf in a bowl, quick and easy to pick up. The pages have a couple of stains, and the bottom of the front cover is forever bent upwards and soft with use, instead of flat and shiny. This says a lot, my cookbook collection is not small. Each and every cookbook I own has meaning. Some I use, some I refer to, many I have as mementos of places I have travelled to, many have been gifts. But I love every single one. Just recently I had to clean out two new shelves so I could store the cookbooks that had grown into a pile on the floor. I had to make room for what matters, as well as remove the natural collecting spot for dust bunnies in the den. Summed up best in Pat Conroys words, “Cooking is an insidious addiction and it was many years before I realized I needed to enroll in a twelve- step program to control my passion for the ownership of cookbooks.” Love it, love him.
Food, the language that binds, touchable love, nourishment. I think when I read chapter 7, titled “A recipe is a Story”, I became his devotee forever. He was able to sum up what I cherish about sharing food with others in one beautiful sentence. He simply states and I will end with this:
“…it is my most religious belief that a recipe is just a story that ends with a good meal.”
Enjoy the best of food and life, a well done and well lived life, Pat.