The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life

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“This book is the story of my life as it relates to the subject of food. It is my autobiography in food and meals and restaurants and countries far and near. Let me take you to a restaurant on the Left Bank of Paris that I found when writing The Lords of Discipline. There are meals I ate in Rome while writing The Prince of Tides that ache in my memory when I resurrect them. There is a shrimp dish I ate in an elegant English restaurant, where Cuban cigars were passed out to all the gentlemen in the room after ...

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The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes and Stories of My Life

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Overview

“This book is the story of my life as it relates to the subject of food. It is my autobiography in food and meals and restaurants and countries far and near. Let me take you to a restaurant on the Left Bank of Paris that I found when writing The Lords of Discipline. There are meals I ate in Rome while writing The Prince of Tides that ache in my memory when I resurrect them. There is a shrimp dish I ate in an elegant English restaurant, where Cuban cigars were passed out to all the gentlemen in the room after dinner, that I can taste on my palate as I write this. There is barbecue and its variations in the South, and the subject is a holy one to me. I write of truffles in the Dordogne Valley in France, cilantro in Bangkok, catfish in Alabama, scuppernong in South Carolina, Chinese food from my years in San Francisco, and white asparagus from the first meal my agent took me to in New York City. Let me tell you about the fabulous things I have eaten in my life, the story of the food I have encountered along the way. . . ”

America’s favorite storyteller, Pat Conroy, is back with a unique cookbook that only he could conceive. Delighting us with tales of his passion for cooking and good food and the people, places, and great meals he has experienced, Conroy mixes them together with mouthwatering recipes from the Deep South and the world beyond.

It all started thirty years ago with a chance purchase of The Escoffier Cookbook, an unlikely and daunting introduction for the beginner. But Conroy was more than up to the task. He set out with unwavering determination to learn the basics of French cooking—stocks and dough—and moved swiftly on to veal demi-glace and pâte brisée. With the help of his culinary accomplice, Suzanne Williamson Pollak, Conroy mastered the dishes of his beloved South as well as the cuisine he has savored in places as far away from home as Paris, Rome, and San Francisco.

Each chapter opens with a story told with the inimitable brio of the author. We see Conroy in New Orleans celebrating his triumphant novel The Prince of Tides at a new restaurant where there is a contretemps with its hardworking young owner/chef—years later he discovered the earnest young chef was none other than Emeril Lagasse; we accompany Pat and his wife on their honeymoon in Italy and wander with him, wonderstruck, through the markets of Umbria and Rome; we learn how a dinner with his fighter-pilot father was preceded by the Great Santini himself acting out a perilous night flight that would become the last chapters of one of his son’s most beloved novels. These tales and more are followed by corresponding recipes—from Breakfast Shrimp and Grits and Sweet Potato Rolls to Pappardelle with Prosciutto and Chestnuts and Beefsteak Florentine to Peppered Peaches and Creme Brulee. A master storyteller and passionate cook, Conroy believes that “A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.”

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Pat Conroy Cookbook might be described as a gastronomical memoir. Conroy himself describes it as "my autobiography in food and meals and restaurants and countries far and near...I write of truffles in the Dordogne Valley in France, cilantro in Bangkok, catfish in Alabama, scuppernong in South Carolina, Chinese food from my years in San Francisco, and white asparagus from the first meal my agent took me to in New York City." But Conroy's book is not just a collection of reminiscences by the author of The Water Is Wide and The Prince of Tides; it's a collection of 100 international recipes by a fine, self-taught chef.
Publishers Weekly
This effort from the author of The Great Santini and The Prince 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) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After his wife put him in charge of family meals, novelist Conroy (The Prince of Tides) sought help from a bookseller friend, who gave him Escoffier's classic cookbook. While mastering the French culinary basics, Conroy discovered just how much he enjoyed cooking. He went on to take classes from a variety of teachers and found a kindred soul in dedicated amateur cook Pollak, who helped him select the 100 delectable recipes sprinkled throughout this book. In addition, Conroy gifts readers with stories from his life and ruminations on his love of cookbooks, his discovery of Italy's culinary treasures, and favorite foods, all flavored with his distinctive style and tart wit. Even culinary novices will be tempted by Conroy's Shrimp Salad and Spaghetti Carbonara. For Conroy, there is nothing better than good storytelling and good food, and his warm, wise, and wonderful culinary memoir has both. Highly recommended for most public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/04.] John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
The Pat Conroy Cookbook is more than just that. It’s a virtual “Ode to Joy.” Read it; cook from it. You will eat better than you ever have in your life, and will know more about Pat Conroy, perhaps, than he would ever tell you.” 
— Anne Rivers Siddons  
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375434358
  • Publisher: Random House Large Print
  • Publication date: 11/9/2004
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

PAT CONROY is the bestselling author of The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and My Losing Season. SUZANNE WILLIAMSON, the author of Entertaining for Dummies, has been the spokesperson for Federated Department Stores in ten states on the subjects of cooking and home entertainment. She has also written extensively on the subject of food for newspapers. Suzanne is married to Peter Pollak and they have four children.

.

Biography

Pat Conroy was born on October 26, 1945, in Atlanta, Georgia, to a young career military officer from Chicago and a Southern beauty from Alabama, whom Pat often credits for his love of language. He was the first of seven children.

His father was a violent and abusive man, a man whose biggest mistake, Conroy once said, was allowing a novelist to grow up in his home, a novelist "who remembered every single violent act... my father's violence is the central fact of my art and my life." Since the family had to move many times to different military bases around the South, Pat changed schools frequently, finally attending the Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, upon his father's insistence. While still a student, he wrote and then published his first book, The Boo, a tribute to a beloved teacher.

After graduation, Conroy taught English in Beaufort, where he met and married a young woman with two children, a widow of the Vietnam War. He then accepted a job teaching underprivileged children in a one-room schoolhouse on Daufuskie Island, a remote island off the South Carolina shore. After a year, Pat was fired for his unconventional teaching practices -- such as his unwillingness to allow corporal punishment of his students -- and for his general lack of respect for the school's administration. Conroy evened the score when he exposed the racism and appalling conditions his students endured with the publication of The Water is Wide in 1972. The book won Conroy a humanitarian award from the National Education Association and was made into the feature film Conrack, starring Jon Voight.

Following the birth of a daughter, the Conroys moved to Atlanta, where Pat wrote his novel, The Great Santini, published in 1976. This autobiographical work, later made into a powerful film starring Robert Duvall, explored the conflicts of his childhood, particularly his confusion over his love and loyalty to an abusive and often dangerous father.

The publication of a book that so painfully exposed his family's secret brought Conroy to a period of tremendous personal desolation. This crisis resulted not only in his divorce but the divorce of his parents; his mother presented a copy of The Great Santini to the judge as "evidence" in divorce proceedings against his father.

The Citadel became the subject of his next novel, The Lords of Discipline, published in 1980. The novel exposed the school's harsh military discipline, racism and sexism. This book, too, was made into a feature film.

Pat remarried and moved from Atlanta to Rome where he began The Prince of Tides which, when published in 1986, became his most successful book. Reviewers immediately acknowledged Conroy as a master storyteller and a poetic and gifted prose stylist. This novel has become one of the most beloved novels of modern time—with over five million copies in print, it has earned Conroy an international reputation. The Prince of Tides was made into a highly successful feature film directed by Barbra Streisand, who also starred in the film opposite Nick Nolte, whose brilliant performance won him an Oscar nomination.

Beach Music (1995), Conroy's sixth book, was the story of Jack McCall, an American who moves to Rome to escape the trauma and painful memory of his young wife's suicidal leap off a bridge in South Carolina. The story took place in South Carolina and Rome, and also reached back in time to the Holocaust and the Vietnam War. This book, too, was a tremendous international bestseller.

While on tour for Beach Music, members of Conroy's Citadel basketball team began appearing, one by one, at his book signings around the country. When his then-wife served him divorce papers while he was still on the road, Conroy realized that his team members had come back into his life just when he needed them most. And so he began reconstructing his senior year, his last year as an athlete, and the 21 basketball games that changed his life. The result of these recollections, along with flashbacks of his childhood and insights into his early aspirations as a writer, is My Losing Season, Conroy's seventh book and his first work of nonfiction since The Water is Wide.

He currently lives in Fripp Island, South Carolina with his wife, the novelist Cassandra King.

Author biography courtesy of Pat Conroy's official web site.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Donald Patrick Conroy (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      San Francisco and South Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 26, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A.,The Citadel, 1967

Read an Excerpt

chapter one

Nathalie Dupree

The first actual cooking teacher who took both my money and my grief for imparting culinary secrets to me was the inimitable, unclassifiable queen of the Southern kitchen, Nathalie Dupree. Though Nathalie does not know this, she is one of the few people in my life who seems more like a fictional character than a flesh-and-blood person.

When my novel Beach Music came out in 1995, I had included a couple of recipes in the book, and had tried to impart some of my love of Roman cuisine and the restaurants of Rome. Several journalists who write about food for newspapers interviewed me about the food angle in the novel, curious about the fact that the book's protagonist, Jack McCall, wrote cookbooks and restaurant reviews. A woman from the Washington Post conducted a delightful interview over the phone, and during our conversation, I mentioned that I had taken Nathalie's course in the cooking school she ran in the old Rich's department store in downtown Atlanta. The woman called Nathalie after our interview, and Nathalie tracked me down to report on the nature of their conversation.

Nathalie's voice is deep and musical and seductive. She possesses the rare ability to be both maddening and hilarious in the course of a single sentence. Her character is a shifting, ever-changing thing, and she reinvents herself all over again every couple of years. In one way, she seems the same, yet you are aware she is in the process of a complete transformation. When she tells about her life, you could swear she was speaking of a hundred women, not just one.

"Pat, darling," Nathalie said on the phone, "all my working life I've been scheming and plotting and dreaming of ways to get an interview with the food editor of the Washington Post. You can imagine my joy when I heard that the food editor of the Post had left a message on my answering machine. And I thought, Yes, it's finally happening; your prayers have been answered, Nathalie."

"That's great, Nathalie," I said, not quite knowing where she was going with this. You never know where Nathalie is going with a train of thought; you simply know that the train will not be on time, will carry many passengers, and will eventually collide with a food truck stalled somewhere down the line on damaged tracks.

"Can you imagine my disappointment when I found out that they wanted to interview me about you, instead of about me. I admit, Pat, that after I got over the initial shock, it turned suddenly to bitterness. After all, what do I possibly get out of talking about you when I could be talking about my own cookbooks? Naturally, I did not let on a word about what I was really thinking, but I did suggest, very subtly I might add, that she might want to do a feature on me and my work sometime in the future. When were you in my class, Pat?"

"In 1980," I said.

"I don't remember that. Did you really take my class? Who else was in it?"

"My wife Lenore. Jim Landon. George Lanier. A nice woman who lived on the same floor as my dad in the Darlington Apartments."

"It doesn't ring a bell for me," she said. "Was I good?"

"You were wonderful," I said.

"All my ex-students say that. It must be a gift."

"You were a great teacher."

"And sexy. I won't be happy until you tell me I was also extraordinarily sexy."
"I could barely cook I was so aroused. All the other men in the class felt the same way. It's hard to make a perfect souffle when you're rutting."

"Pat, you know the way to a young girl's heart," Nathalie said. "But I want you to know that I'll always be perfectly furious at you for getting into the Washington Post food world before I did. That's my bailiwick, not yours."

"It will never happen again, Nathalie," I promised. "All your bailiwicks will be safe from poor Conroy."

When Nathalie taught her cooking class at Rich's, I learned new lessons about insouciance, style, and lack of preparation. Always, at the last minute, Nathalie's worthy assistant, Kate Almand, would move in to provide a missing utensil or bag of flour or loin of veal that Nathalie had misplaced or left in her car. The joy of watching Nathalie's cooking shows on television has always come from her artless displays of confusion and disorganization, and her sheer bravado when she actually makes a mistake. Unlike Martha Stewart, Nathalie often looks beaten up when she completes a segment of her show. She can be covered with flour up to her elbows after baking a loaf of bread, can drop her perfectly roasted capon on the kitchen floor, or can garnish her pumpkin pie with cooked rice that she meant to put in her delicious cream of carrot soup. On her television show, Nathalie has turned the culinary mistake or misstep into her signature moment.

Nathalie is always worth the price of admission and I love cooking with her. Disorder follows her around like a spaniel. There is no hum of quiet efficiency in her kitchen to intimidate me as I caramelize the onions or beat the egg whites to a stiff peak. She prides herself on being a hands-on cook, and I have seen her hands dripping with batter, red with blood, and crimson from handling baby beets. Like most good cooks, she is absolutely fearless, taking on each task with gusto. And her conversation mixes well with the mouthwatering aromas rising out of her kitchen as the meal takes shape around us. I personally do not believe Nathalie has ever enjoyed a quiet meal at home with her equally hospitable husband, the writer Jack Bass. When I knew her in Atlanta, the whole city in all its shapes, races, and classes seemed to pass by her dining room table. She attracts friends like a magnet does iron filings. Her desire to entertain and feed people seems insatiable to me, a mark of her character as striking as her beautiful almond-shaped eyes.

On the night our class made a crown roast of pork, orange and fennel salad, turnip greens and grits, and crème brûlée for dessert, she told a story in fits and starts that ended only after she poured the dessert wine. I soon found myself looking forward to Nathalie's stories as much as I did her recipes. They ranged the world and involved famous chefs, cookbook writers of note, lovers and husbands and boyfriends of both the charming and monstrous varieties. I preferred the stories of her lovers because her voice could turn smoky and catlike as we, her students, chopped and shredded and prepared our meals according to her instructions. The story and the food comingled and exchanged properties.

I can taste neither fennel nor crème brûlée without thinking of the story she told that night. I tell it from memory, but I will try to use Nathalie's ineffable voice. She could say the word "lover" and infuse it with all the savor and forbiddenness of a Frenchwoman recalling an affair with an Italian count. "I was living in Greenwich Village in New York," she told us. "I had taken up with a dashing, utterly charming man. He turned out to be a perfect cad, but didn't they all in those days, darling? Jim, I'd slice that fennel a little thinner. It looks too much like celery when you slice it that way. Yes, perfect. He was, by far, the most sophisticated, demanding lover I had ever been involved with up to that time. He was the consummate gourmet who had eaten in the finest restaurants in the world since he was a child. Well. I decided I was going to cook him a meal that he would never forget, one that would prove my love for him, yet honor his amazing sophistication.

"I went next door to get advice from the two gay men who lived in the most spectacular apartment. They knew everybody and everything, but they were of no help that day. Greenwich Village was astir, at least the gay portion of the Village--no small share, I assure you--with the news of a gay serial killer who would not only murder his poor victims, but would then mutilate them in ghastly ways. My neighbors' hysteria rendered them useless and I heard them turn all six locks in their door as soon as I left their apartment and began the search for the most unusual meal for my lover.

"There was a little butcher shop in the East Village that sold specialty meats and could usually come up with a surprise. Pat, use a whisk to beat your eggs for the crème brûlée. You're not scrambling eggs for a country brunch. This is a French dish, dearie. Oh, where was I? Yes. The butcher had a surprise for me. He had two things in his shop he had never carried before: live escargots and testicles freshly cut from yearling calves in upper New York State. 'Mountain oysters!' I shouted in triumph, and I was sure that every snail my lover had eaten had come from a can. I paid cash for everything. I spent a fortune. But that's what you do when you're in love. You're never yourself. You are possessed. You'll do anything. George, you need to get your pork into the oven. Less fanaticism with the presentation. It's lovely, but it's still pork. And trichinosis is a fact of life. I took the mountain oysters and snails back to my apartment, then left them in the sink and ran down to buy the wine for the meal. I threw some ice on the calves' testicles because organ meat is very perishable. But I got delayed when I asked the French chef who ran a restaurant on my street about the preparation of the escargots. He had a certain dark frisson and I soon realized he was flirting with me. This made me late in my return. My lover would be arriving with roses in a few hours. I opened the door of my apartment and I'll never forget what I saw there! I've had nightmares about it more than once. The snails had conspired to effect a vast breakout. They were everywhere. On the walls, on the ceiling, trailing their slimy bodies across my copper pans, and my cookbooks. My screams of repulsion and terror resounded throughout my apartment building.

"The two dear gay men next door were the first neighbors to arrive. But the escargots did not interest them. They were transfixed by the sight of a whole bucket of male genitalia in my sink. You could not blame them. They had never seen mountain oysters, nor did they know that anyone would cook and eat them. They thought they had stumbled into the lair of the serial killer who was preying on and mutilating gay males. The snails on the walls simply added a note of horror to it all. They fled screaming down the stairs and out into the streets. The police were called. It was an affair to remember. Pat, are you burning your greens? Good; it's sinful to burn greens. There's always a point of no return, you know.

"Did I fix my lover dinner that night? But of course. All the commotion simply made the evening more special. I served the escargots in their own shells with garlic, butter, and parsley--after I boiled and cleaned them, of course. I fried the mountain oysters, and they were superb. After dinner and cognac, my lover and I--ah, but that is personal, part of the night's mystery. There are parts of some stories that should never be told. Ah. Class, take a deep breath. Dinner is almost ready. Smell it. Breathe deeply. Now. Now."

Though Nathalie Dupree did not remember much about my presence in her class, it marked me forever. I remain her enthusiast, her evangelist, her acolyte, and her grateful student. She taught me that cooking and storytelling make the most delightful coconspirators. Either was good alone, but in communion with each other, they could rise to the level of ecstasy.

Three of Nathalie's recipes.

MELON RING WITH MINT AND HONEY-LIME DRESSING

The last time Nathalie Dupree invited me to dinner, she met me at the front door and told me with her most theatrical flourish that she felt "worse than a rabid dog or the parakeet that the proverbial cat dragged in." She is a woman of great entrances and exits, and said to me, "Pat, you must play the part of the gentleman and rescue this damsel in distress. You were my student, and you must cook the meal and save this night for me. If my guests realized I was about to begin projectile vomiting across the room, they'd just die."

"I will fix the meal gladly, Nathalie," I said, moving toward the kitchen as she moved out to the living room and the sounds of her guests in conversation. I made the meal: a standing rib roast, a simple green salad, steamed asparagus, and fresh peaches with cream and a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. To begin the meal, Nathalie asked, "I got a call from our good mutual friend from Atlanta, the one who's been married six times. Do you have any theories about why all her husbands have turned out to be gay?"

• Serves 6 to 8

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped mint leaves
1 cup melon balls (preferably a mix of cantaloupe, honeydew, and/or similar kinds), plus additional (optional)

For the dressing
1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1. Place the gelatin, 1 cup of the orange juice, and the sugar in a small pan and heat until the gelatin and sugar are dissolved. Do not let the mixture come to a boil.

2. Remove the gelatin mixture from the heat and add the lemon juice, the remaining 1 cup orange juice, and the mint.

3. Put the pan over a bowl of ice water and stir for a few minutes until the gelatin begins to thicken. Fold in the melon balls. Pour into a 4-cup ring mold and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

4. Unmold and fill the center with additional melon balls, if desired. To make the dressing: Mix all the ingredients together and serve with the ring and melon balls.

*****

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2010

    Delicious Pat Conroy

    I groaned loudly when I turned to the last page--I wanted more! This is a great book filled with characters that provided rich seasoning for a collection of Pat's favorite life stories. Tears streamed down my face as I read aloud from the book to my husband and son as we were driving home from our vacation on the S. Carolina coast. I can't get enough of Pat's prose and look forward to exploring Beaufort, SC more on my next visit.

    As a bonus, there are some great recipies, too, but the publication comes across as more story-telling than cookbook. However, the recipies perfectly compliment the writings and promise to be great additions to any collection of regional fare. Bon appetite!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Entertaining Reading

    I bought this book and left it at my vacation home for 2 years before reading it. What a loss for me. When I finally picked it up, I couldn't put it down. The recipes were tantalizing and not recipes that I am used to seeing. But the stories that went along with the recipes made me feel as if I knew Pat Conroy personally......a man, bigger than life with a true gift for writing and a real joy for living. I bought several copies for friends. It was such a treat to read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    For Pat Conroy readers

    Having read and admired Pat Conroy's many books, I was thrilled to see a cookbook too. The quality of writing is lyrical and autobiographical with recipes thrown in. To add to my pleasure, I spent part of my childhood in Beaufort, South Carolina, Mr. Conroy's be-loved hometown, and enjoyed reading about the town I remember well. I missed being a classmate of his by a few years. Good book for Pat Conroy readers as he eludes to his many books in his narration. Have only tried one recipe but hope to try many more!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2005

    Warm and Fuzzy Reading

    The recipes make my mouth water, and the stories are just DELIGHTFUL! I really enjoyed the book and wish that I were having dinner on the Island with the Conroys.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2013

    What a Great way to Seduce any aspiring Cook!

    Pat has done me the tremendous favor of presenting the important underpinnings of cookery so that I can give them to my husband. I am a terrible teacher and Pat is a marvel. Clear, lucid and enthusiastic in presentation and entertaining as only he can be. Buy this, you will NOT regret doing so.

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  • Posted December 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Part short stories part recipes all Conroy. I thoroughly enjoyed

    Part short stories part recipes all Conroy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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