Who could forget John Kennedy Toole and his Pulitzer-winning comic masterpiece, “A Confederacy of Dunces.” Since its publication in 1980, it has sold more than 2 million copies in 23 languages.
If you’re a die-hard Kennedy fan – or if you love New Orleans – you need to know about “A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook,” so full of Ignatius J. Reilly’s favorite foods from the 1960s you’ll add blubber just reading it.
The creator of this treasure is LSU Press cookbook editor Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, who trained in bread-baking in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Wisely, she does not limit herself to Reilly’s own fare – glazed jelly doughnuts, cream puffs and “the distinct odors of hot dog, mustard and lubricant.” She goes broader and deeper. She interviewed old friends of Toole’s to re-create Ignatius’s mother’s potato salad, researched old cookbooks and newspapers, and tracked down the location of former bakeries, including the German one that inspired the shop where Ignatius’ mother bought her son all those treats.
According to Deep South magazine, Nobles had a hard time pinning down the author’s own favorite foods, other than roast beef poboys and gumbo and jambalaya. Toole’s mother, the magazine says, was known for her stuffed tomatoes and banana bread. Otherwise, “he seemed to prefer a drink at Napoleon House or The Roosevelt over a fancy meal.”
Before she moved to Baton Rouge, Nobles lived in a house behind where Toole lived with his parents.
Thelma Toole was a dedicated mother, notoriously pushy and determined to see her beloved son’s novel published after his suicide. Who could’ve known it would become such a hit.
Other possibilities for cookbooks? We have Jan Karon’s “Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader.” And nosing around, I discovered “A Secret Garden Cookbook,” with recipes for homemade currant buns, porridge and roasted potatoes. And, yes, there’s “The Jane Austen Cookbook,” with its jugged steaks with potatoes, macaroni and pigeon pie. And don’t forget the late Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn” and her recipe for Key lime pie.
But wait! What about a “To Kill a Mockingbird Cookbook”? Harper Lee’s agent Tonja Carter might just find some original recipes for Lane cake, divinity candy and pickled pig’s knuckles right in the renowned author’s own safety deposit box.