12 January 2016

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook

In the Christmas pile was this gem. I saw a brief reference to this book, but I didn't investigate much further. As one might imagine, I keep a pretty extensive "Wishlist" on Amazon to keep track of book out there that I am interested in. My friend Ann knows of this list and often uses it as a guideline for book purchasing.  She carefully examines the cookbooks, decides what she might like to eat and purchases books accordingly. 

Every year, however, she goes off script for a particular book.  There was a book about hand pies that she chose, because she likes pies.  The was a very popular cocktail book that she bought, because she thought it was offal book. This year she heard about A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook on NPR. She knows I lived in NOLA, that I like Southern food and Southern authors and she bought it immediately. Another excellent choice, Ann.

The author of the cookbook, Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, is a write and editor. Her previous cookbook collected recipes from the famed Delta Queen. When she became a cookbook editor at the Louisiana State University Press one of her first duties was to recommend someone to write the "Confederacy of Dunces" cookbook.  It wasn't a difficult question. The answer for Nobles was -- me!  Nobles said. "When I first read the novel, the most captivating thing to me was it had all this food in the book."

Nobles set out on a year long journey to follow the food of Ignatius J. Reilly through the backstreets and byways of New Orleans.  The book is filled with the lively characters of John Kennedy Toole. Nobles didn't just skim the novel, find a food item mentioned, and slap in a recipe.  She did extensive research into where, what, and how the food impacted the novel.

When Mrs. Riley eats canned food, Nobles finds a way to make it from scratch.

With the help of an old friend of Toole's, she was able to find the inspiration for the bakery, German's, home of Ignatius' donuts.

Alas, one can no longer find the almondy Dr. Nut, Ignatius's drink of choice, but she does have a photo of the squirrelly bottle.

There is even a chapter on "that whirlpool of despair,"as Toole would call Baton Rouge. 
This recipe is one of those. As Nobles tells us.

"When Ignatius was in Baton Rouge, which he famously called the "whirlpool of despair," he could have stopped for a meal at Bob and Jake's restaurant on Gov­ernment Street and sampled the hottest salad in town, Jake Staples' Sensation Salad. Created in the 1950s, this cheesy, garlicky salad grew to be so popular it became a regular menu item throughout South Louisiana, and it's still a fixture in many restaurants. Back in the 1950s–60s, iceberg lettuce was, of course, pretty much the only thing around. But go ahead and give iceberg a try; the salad needs this lettuce's crunch and heft to complement the bold dressing."
Sensation Salad

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon mashed or minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large head iceberg lettuce, chopped
2/3 cup freshly grated Romano cheese

Combine olive oil, canola oil, lemon juice, vinegar, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in a pint jar, and shake well. For best flavor, refrigerate 24 hours. When ready to serve, toss let­tuce with dressing and cheese.
As a fan of iceberg lettuce, I highly approve. If you have spent many an hour with Ignatius Reilly, or have explored the literary side of New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook is a must have.


  1. I love that book and heard the NPR piece on it, but wondered if it was a must-have. Thanks for the review!

  2. I gave this book to my son for Christmas. He's living in his first apartment and wants to learn to cook, and he's also a big fan of Confederacy of Dunces.

  3. Cynthia LeJeune NoblesJanuary 13, 2016 at 9:21 PM

    Glad you like the cookbook. Sure was fun writing -- especially "The German" chapter, which gave me an excuse to eat a lot of sweets.

  4. This cookbook has some excellent cooking Cooking Recipes, thanks for this site.

  5. Had no idea there was a cookbook based on this novel! I have had the novel on my shelves for a couple of years but haven't yet read it. Now I am inspired to get at it. Thanks for the heads up about this book, may have to see about getting it, also :)


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