“A High Form of Play”

From Beach Music, by Pat Conroy

“When I was in a kitchen I could no longer feel the pressure of the world on my shoulders; for me cooking has always been a high form of play, and teaching someone how to make a meal memorable was a combination of thrill and gift that I never tired of giving.”


This quotation comes from a book that came to me at a time when I was feeling the pressure of the world much too heavily on my shoulders. As the best books do, it presented itself insistently as if by accident; it was just there, one cheap well-loved novel among many on the anonymous shelf of the borrowed ski condo, demanding to be read.

So I read it during a week of living alone alongside a mountain 10 winters ago, and, slowly, I began to thaw.

The following summer, again in the mountains, I learned the joy of cooking. It’s a high form of play indeed after walking all day with 60 pounds on your back — and the chances of your work being appreciated are that much greater.

Like Pat Conroy’s novels — the rest of which I devoured in the spring and summer after that terrible winter — cooking has remained a lifeline for me ever since. When the world presses down too insistently, I go to the kitchen and play. I get a thrill, and the people I live with get a gift.