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Pat Conroy and Strawberry Cake

Posted by Sooz on Saturday, January 15, 2011 | 26 Comments

On New Year’s Day we were invited to have dinner with some dear friends. We had not been with them in quite some time, and we were excited to share a meal together and relax in each other’s company. When we arrived, a fire was stoked in the fireplace and a warm welcome awaited us. Initially we were greeted with hugs and hellos, and then we went around the house admiring the changes that had transpired since our last visit. Beautiful glossy hardwood floors had been laid, sleek black cabinetry was added, along with the adoption of two energetic and effusive German Shepherd puppies…a daring addition with the new hardwoods I thought.

Throughout the night we regaled each other with tales of childhood Christmas memories, up and coming college plans, and stories of unusual people that we know (including a designer friend whose personal challenge it is to reinvent himself every five years – wardrobe, design scheme, and all!) The night was a tapestry of laughter, tears, music, stories, and a wonderful shared meal, all set against the backdrop of a cherished friendship. There were, however, two things that punctuated the evening.

First, our host closed out the meal by reading a favorite passage from Pat Conroy’s cookbook. His selection was mesmerizing and memorable; somehow intertwining escaped escargot and a serial killer! We laughed out loud. It felt like such an honor to be read to, our host humbly checking his pronunciation from time to time and clearly conveying his delight in the delicious tale. The moment was magical.

As an adult, it is seldom that I am read to, even more a rare honor when it is a close friend willing to read aloud. I felt, in that moment, the same joy and anticipation that I did when my elementary school teacher would read to us after lunch. My heart was totally engaged in the experience, and I was touched by the humble bravery of this vulnerable act of sharing – of reading aloud.

After we retired to enjoy the fire, our hostess served dessert and coffee. She presented to us a heaping slice of the most beautiful homemade strawberry cake you have ever seen. Made with pureed strawberries and garnished with fresh fruit, this moist wonder was beyond belief. Now, my friend is a good cook, but she would be the first to admit that she has had no formal training or gourmet coaching. Yet this cake exceeded, in goodness, any other strawberry cake I have ever had. Why, because you could taste the time and love that went into it. It was remarkable!

We closed the evening by exchanging overdue Christmas gifts and hugs. On the drive home I pondered our time together. I thought about the gifts we had shared and the kindness of our friends. While the gifts were nice and much appreciated, nothing compared to the goodness received from a cake made with love and a story read aloud. I felt my heart swell in my chest as I thought of these gifts and their givers. I remembered and deeply noted, on this first day of the year, the importance of goodness and its power to open the human heart.

“Goodness like a gentle rain, coaxes the most reluctant bud to bloom.”

A “Good” Idea:

Next time you entertain, find a poem or short story to read to your guests. It will make the night so much more memorable. It takes a little courage to read aloud, but goodness is your reward. Share from your heart and people will not forget it.

We highly recommend The Pat Conroy Cookbook.  It is a delightful mix of outrageous and heartwarming stories along with fabulous recipes. The story that was read to us was “Nathalie Dupree.” Unforgettable! (Note: this story is best when read with your thickest southern accent and lots of attitude, Scarlett O’Hara style)

26 Responses

  1. Cindy says:

    Love it!!! :D

  2. Melanie Hall says:

    Happy Launch Day!!! This is soooooo exciting!! The site is beautiful!! Looking forward to what’s ahead!!! Love you SOOZ!!

  3. Roberta Chadwick says:

    i got your website from Cindy Dunn. Just love it! Thanks so much for what you are doing. The best of ideas.

  4. Laurie Gulan says:

    I love Strawberry Cake. Always order it for dessert at Sperry’s!

  5. Patty says:

    Congrats on realizing a dream come true! I pray it is all you hoped for….and more! Love the first day and we love you! Thanks for sharing your “goodness”! Love and hugs!

  6. Becky Davidson says:

    Congrats on the new site! It looks wonderful! So happy for you all!

  7. traci bailey says:

    i’m so happy and proud for you. this is wonderful. i love your story and pat conroy happens to be one of my very favorite authors, i’ll have to get his cookbook now:) as you know i love to read. one of my most cherished (and private-guess now not-so-private) memories is reading from the bible to my husband when he came out of the hospital in december 2007 per his request. been waiting patiently for another request…

    • Sooz says:

      Thanks so much for your support “T”. I totally recommend the cookbook, especially if you enjoy the southern gentleman, Mr. Conroy. The recipes and stories are delicious!! Reading to a loved one, anytime, is a dear thing to me, but especially under those circumstances.

  8. Nan Smith says:

    Susan, I want to follow your suggestion. Last Christmas our son Troy, your old time friend, read Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, followed by our son in law Tommy reading part of it. D. Bonhoffer’s mother told him and his siblings that it was their duty to pass not only their faith to their children but their literary and cultural heritage as well. As our schools lag behind in teaching our rich Western tradition, let us take up the baton and include our children when possible in these cherished traditions and precious occasions of “sharing the goodness”. Nan Smith, your friend and long time not so long ago neighbor.

    • Sooz says:

      What a beautiful suggestion Nan. Creating these moments, and drawing our children into them, is a way to establish a legacy of goodness. I can only imagine the heartwarming scene of you all basking in the beauty of a worthy story shared with those you love most. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely idea with us. (and yes, it seems only moments ago that I was riding my bike down your drive)

  9. Jane Waites says:

    So glad your Mother told me about your new project. i love the reading, or telling of a good story. Thanks!

    • Sooz says:

      I love a good story too Jane! It is one of the treats of life. Thank you so much for spending time with us. We are truly honored.

  10. Andrew Orr says:

    Hi Cousin! Congratulations on the launch of the new site…wonderful! And very much needed in this time. Thank you for putting this together. I enjoyed reading your post, “Pat Conroy and Strawberry Cake.” It reminded me of a time when I hosted a dinner; “take back your passion night.” Friends came over, we dressed in funny clothes, ate home made Mexican food (how passionate is that) drank sangrias and had a wonderful time. Before supper, our prayer was read from the book, Prayers of the Earth, all of the guests were asked to read one or two lines. It was great fun. I love reading to guests at the table. Another favorite is to read Frost’s poem about blueberries before the first fresh blueberry pie of the summer is served. Keep up the wonderful work. Much love, Andrew

    • Sooz says:

      Andrew – not only are you an inspiring artist (friends who are reading this PLEASE click on Andrew’s name in blue and see what I mean) but you are also a fellow lover of goodness. I love your story and the heart of celebration and joy in it. It is so important to make “moments” in our life that are simply unforgettable. I know that your guests felt loved and included – especially in the reading together of a prayer. I hope you will share your dinner reading list with me so that we can all be inspired. I am immediately adopting the Frost blueberry poem as a tradition for our family. Thank you ever so much for sharing your goodness with us. Proud to be family – Sooz

  11. Lala says:

    Sooo very special, I love it and 2011 is going to be a very goodness-filled year!

  12. Lisa C. says:

    Susan, congratulations on the launch of this new website. It is wonderful. It has already touched my life and my heart and I know it will continue to do so. Love ya bunches.

    • Sooz says:

      Lisa – your support means so much. I hope we can be a rich source of encouragement to you as you continue to heal from your loss. Thank you for being a faithful friend! Sooz

  13. Shaylynn says:

    Susan,
    I am an acquaintance of Melanie’s (through the Teague Family). I heard about your new website. I enjoyed reading it to today and have added you to my read list on my personal blog, http://www.oxfordimpressions.blogspot.com . People who come to my blog will now see a link to yours. Wishing you much success!

    • Sooz says:

      We are so honored that you would take the time to get to know us Shaylynn. We are even more touched that you would share us with your followers. Your website is lovely and we wish you all the best with your beautiful handiwork!! Goodness to you.

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