Check out these cookbook gift ideas for the foodie in your family
A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook
By Cynthia LeJeune Nobles
Set in the early 1960s in New Orleans, the satirical Pulitzer Prize-winning A Confederacy of Dunces traces the exploits of Ignatius J. Reilly, an overweight, overeducated complainer who lives with his mother and obsesses over authority and his own chronic flatulence.
Woven through the zaniness are plenty of food references, and it’s from this perspective that author and food historian Cynthia LeJeune Nobles delivers her spirited A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook, published by the LSU Press in October.
Nobles created nearly 200 recipes from dishes directly referenced in the book or that were inspired by characters or settings. For example, she includes a recipe for “juicy wine cakes,” a favorite purchase of Ignatius’s mother, Irene, and a chicken salad recipe derivative of one made at the D.H. Holmes department store, site of a pivotal plot twist.
Nobles also gives an entertaining explanation of the culinary and social culture of 1960s New Orleans. Chapters are organized thematically. In one on Paradise Vendors, Nobles includes a recipe for homemade wieners, a nod to Ignatius’ fate as a Lucky Dog salesman who can’t stop eating his inventory. And the chapter on the city’s Sicilian influence features a recipe similar to Santa Battaglia’s “jambalaya with shrimps.”
“Creole Recipes and Lore in the New Orleans Grand Tradition”
By Poppy Tooker
Few regional writers have put as much care into preserving Louisiana’s culinary culture as author and radio host Poppy Tooker, whose previous books include The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook and Louisiana Eats! The People, The Food and Their Stories. Her latest work, Tujague’s Cookbook, features more than 100 recipes, history and lore from New Orleans’ second oldest restaurant.
Tujague’s was threatened with closure in 2013 until a groundswell of public support saved it. Rightfully so. The Decatur Street eatery, credited for pioneering the stand-up bar and the meal we know as brunch, sheds light on America’s culinary past.
Along with the classic and modern recipes, Tooker traces the restaurant’s ownership twists and turns, its ghost stories and its recent light-handed renovation. Tujague’s is part of an esteemed group of ancient New Orleans eateries that are like “food museums,” Tooker says. But, she says, it’s distinct in its relevance to locals because it’s always been a neighborhood restaurant.
Tujague’s was famous for a five-course menu that always included red-and-white shrimp remoulade and beef brisket. Tooker features recipes for both. Other recipes in the book include the original Grasshopper cocktail, invented in 1918 by then-owner and barkeep Philip Guichet, and the luscious red beans and rice still made by Tujague’s longtime cook, Brenda Gooden, which are free at the bar on Mondays.
“A Guide to Seasonal Cooking”
Written and published by Erin Nugent and Lauren Beth Landry
Working from the perspective that Louisiana is “unapologetically cyclical,” Baton Rouge-based food enthusiasts Erin Nugent and Lauren Beth Landry have released a new self-published cookbook with more than 100 original, seasonal recipes that use Louisiana’s native ingredients.
The duo’s dishes are largely contemporary versions of Louisiana classics, and many, like Mexican grilled street corn and Thai coconut and shiitake mushroom soup, are influenced by international cuisines. There are plenty of good-looking cocktails in the book, too. Each recipe is accompanied by tempting food photos styled in a manner than reflects the authors’ specific sense of design. Think shades of ice blue, marble, draped linens and elegant, natural table settings.
Landry is a co-founder of the now closed Country Table, the seasonal foods delivery service, and Nugent was an attorney at Jones Walker. Cooking by Louisiana’s four seasons is a personal priority, they say. They’ve organized the book into Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, with a final “Fifth Season” section that contains year-round classics.