Cooking the Lucky Dog

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy O’ Toole, was published posthumously and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981. It’s a satirical tragicomedy that centers on its obese, grandiosely eloquent hero, Ignatius J. Reilly, a proud native of New Orleans, and brings a whole assortment of eccentrics into sharply drawn focus.

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook enters the fictional, foodcentric world of Ignatius J. Reilly, focusing on the food of New Orleans circa 1960s with a historical foray into its origins and sources.  It’s a compendium of everything unique to that time and place-Dixie 45 Beer, Sicilian-American specialties like Garlicky Crab, Crawfish and Shrimp-Stuffed Eggplants, as prepared by Santa Battaglia, Ignatius’ mother’s best friend, and Caramel Doberge cake, that New Orleans specialty by way of Hungary.

Nobles ties in mouthwatering recipes, anecdotes and quotations from the novel itself, and fresh insights into the actual time and place brought to life so vividly in John Kennedy Toole’s novel.  It’s illustrated with photographs of the building that housed the bowling alley where Irene Reilly sought love and escape, for example, and adds recipes from its contemporary equivalents, Rock ‘n’ Bowl on Carrollton Avenue and Fulton Alley. We learn about New Orleans party food in the 1960s—Ignatius tended to make the occasional cheese dip when he was weary of his literary labors-and about the restaurants Ignatius may have visited on his one disastrous visit to Baton Rouge. For a contemporary New Orleanian and lover of the novel, Nobles’ book investigates every allusion and tracks down every reference.  And of course, she provides recipes for wieners, and hot dogs of all sorts. 

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook serves as a food history source, a critical analysis of A Confederacy of Dunces, and a great cookbook, all wrapped up in a steaming Lucky Dog hot dog bun!

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook.  Cynthia LeJeune Nobles. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015. 219 pages. Reviewed by Jennifer Stierman Edwards. Book is available at the SoFAB Pantry. Nobles will sign the book at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum on December 19 and share a few bites of her favorite recipes.