Patricia K. Brooks, 94

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Patricia K. Brooks, Minneapolis native and Connecticut author and journalist, died peacefully in her New Canaan home on January 28, 2021, surrounded by family. She was 94. 

Patricia Brooks

A prolific writer who authored more than two dozen books and wrote hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, mostly on food and travel, Ms. Brooks was perhaps best known for her work as the restaurant critic for the New York Times‘s Connecticut Weekly section. From 1977 to 2016, she filed an estimated 1,800 reviews, never once missing a deadline. That despite a travel schedule which, over the course of those years, had her visiting 65 different countries on five continents. 

She once described herself as a “typewriter for hire,” though critics and admirers found her work more interesting than that modest self-description implies, with a style that was graceful, creative and often laced with wry humor. She was the recipient of several awards for her writing. 

Patricia Janet Kersten was born in Evanston, Illinois, on December 17, 1926, to Robert and Mable Harrington Kersten, and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She graduated with a B.A. from Vassar College in 1947, an M.A. from the University of Minnesota and in 1949 she pursued graduate studies in English literature at the University of London in London, England. While there, she met Lester Brooks, a fellow student and native of Des Moines, Iowa. They were married in 1950. 

The next year, in 1951, the Brookses moved to Manila, the Philippines, where they lived for two years. During that stay, Ms. Brooks sold a travel story to the New York Times, beginning a career as a freelance writer that would span six decades. Their meandering return from Southeast Asia took the Brookses all over the Far East and Europe and lasted nearly a year, instilling in both of them not just a lifelong lust for travel, but also an appreciation of diverse cultures and their native cuisines.

On returning to the United States, the Brookses resided briefly in Astoria, Queens, before taking up residence in Connecticut, first in Norwalk, in 1956, before permanently settling in New Canaan, in 1959. Her adopted state featured prominently in much of Ms. Brooks’s writing, including in Yankee magazine, The Berlitz Travelers Guide to New England, Dorling Kindersley’s Eyewitness Guide to New England, and Food Lovers’ Guide to Connecticut, one of her many books.

Ms. Brooks was an insatiable reader who could talk endlessly about literature and participated in three book groups. She was no less voluble on the subject of politics. An ardent Democrat who for many years was active in both local and state politics, Ms. Brooks helped to mobilize New Canaan contingents that joined marches in Washington to protest against the Vietnam War, in favor of civil rights, and, using media connections, publicized and took part in local activism against President Richard Nixon’s controversial policies. 

Patricia Brooks is survived by her three sons, James Brooks, and his wife Meredith, of Northbrook, Illinois, Jonathan Brooks of Los Angeles, California, and Christopher  Brooks, and his wife Catherine, of New Hartford, Connecticut, and one grandson, Alexander Brooks of Northbrook, Illinois. 

Instead of flowers, donations may be made to the New Canaan Historical Society (13 Oanoke Ridge, New Canaan, CT 06840), or the Convent of St. Birgitta (4 Runkehage Rd, Darien, CT 06820). A memorial service will be held at a later date. 

8 thoughts on “Patricia K. Brooks, 94

  1. Pat was someone who was a gift to have known. I was always interested in what she thought and said on any subject. Warm, funny, very intelligent–she surely had it all!

  2. My condolences to her family upon your loss of an extraordinary woman. My husband (then boyfriend) and I discovered Patricia Brooks’s writing sometime in the mid 1980’s. We looked forward to her reviews in the Connecticut section of the Sunday NYTimes, and eagerly crisscrossed the state of CT to savor the dishes of the many restaurants to which she introduced us. I credit her voice as expressed in her articles with igniting in us the joy and excitement of exploring food both in CT, and through travel in the world beyond. Thank you.

  3. My condolences to Pat’s family. Pat was a wonderful member of the New Canaan community. She contributed much to our history in the tours she led sponsored by the New Canaan Historical Society.

    Her interests knew no boundaries . Early on she wrote biographies of New Canaan architects. These architects led by Philip Johnson became known world wide and many visitors came to New Canaan to see their works. Pat was the first to recognize the group.

    Her reviews of Connecticut’s restaurants were right on. Anyone needing special venue for an event would never go wrong following Pat’s advice. Whether advising on food or architecture she was right on. A great speaker and writer we can hope that there will be someone to follow in her steps .

    Thank you Pat to all the many organizations you contributed to. You will be missed.

  4. Pat was a warm, wise and witty woman. She and her husband Les were close friends with my husband’s family, and we enjoyed some wonderful and fun Thanksgiving feasts together. She was a fabulous cook, hostess, and conversationalist, with many stories to tell. She will be sorely missed.

  5. My condolences to the family. Met Pat at St Brigitta and had many discussions about her St Louis Cardinals and Stan Musial
    She will be missed by all

  6. Our deepest sympathy to Pat’s children. What a very special person she was! Always honest, forthright and well-informed ,she was a staunch Democrat and never hesitated to express her views, even if she knew that you did not agree. We all enjoyed her so much for many years in the YMCA pool, where we were supposed to be exercising, but we all chatted a lot – she was the ringleader! It is a sad commentary that it is not common to know people who honestly mean what they say, no guile, no hidden meanings,etc. She was a rare woman, I am sure a fine mother – Lord knows she went on about “her” boys, a loving wife and a lovely person , who always made being with her a treat. New Canaan has lost a fine lady. Chris Hussey

  7. A wry wit and a beautiful soul, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Brooks at the Pedro Guerra event at the New Canaan Historical Society a few years ago. A staunch and forthright person of truth that is unparalleled in stature, I was honored to be in her presence. A shooting star 🌠 that will be pierce the heavens with her guile ~ Godspeed to you.

  8. I am so happy that Pat and I shared a personal conversation the day after her birthday Zoom call. We met in 1975 on a press trip to Greece and remained friends throughout many press trips and social get-togethers. Our fondest and funniest food memory, which we called up on our final chat, was going to five different hotels and cafes in Vienna to see which one had the very best Sacher Torte. Neither of us had dinner that evening. I will truly miss Pat. She was an original .

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