Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Favorite, Praline Fudge


Every holiday season I make one batch of this fudge.  It tastes very much like a traditional praline, but no  decent candy maker would ever consider using brown sugar for it.  A true praline uses white sugar cooked long and slow to get the wonderful light brown color.  Call this a cheaters version, both for the brown sugar and the fact that it is poured in a pan and cut into squares.  It's still good enough for us.

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons dark Karo
2 pinches salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup pecan pieces

In a largish pan mix the brown sugar, sugar, evaporated milk and the karo syrup.  Cook over a medium heat until the mixture reaches soft ball on a candy thermometer or until a drop in col water forms a soft and pliable ball.  Remove from the heat and add the salt, butter and vanilla. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.  While waiting for the fudge to cool, butter a 9x9 inch baking pan.  Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it starts losing its gloss.  Stir in the pecan pieces and pour immediately into the prepared pan.  Let it set until it is cool and firm to the touch.  Cut into small pieces. I usually cut them about In about 3/4 inch squares.  Enjoy but remember these are very rich.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Whatever Blog "We Were Liars" Book Review

I have no idea where  or what I read about the book "We Were Liars" by E.Lockheart, but something must have been the impetus to click buy from Amazon.

I am wondering just where to begin.  We are introduced to the central character, Cadence or Cady for short at the beginning of the book.  We know from the get go something terrible has happened to her.  We know it involves water, delirium and a loss of memory about the events.  Though a series of flashbacks then a move to the current day we begin, with Cady, to reconstruct "The Event" that no one talks about or will help her remember.

Cady is a cousin in the Sinclair tribe, a family that has absolutely nothing I can relate to.  I did not grow up on the east coast as a granddaughter of a very wealthy Old Boston family.  My folks ( and their parents) did not have a private island where we summered ( each sibling having their own house with the big house where the grandparents lived central to everyone)  I had a ton of cousins, but we spent days together, not the entire season, and we did not have motor boats, kayaks, canoes, staff, and private beaches at our disposal. ( A couple of times we rented a huge house at the beach and most of us were together for a week.   We had only several inner tubes and a couple of floats for our watercraft . It was a lot of fun for a couple of days, but then it became overwhelming.  I can't imagine an entire summer with everyone.)

Aside from that, I suppose having general angst about "who I am and where I am going and what has happened and why did this happen to me" are universal as we all trudge through the teen years. So that much is relatable.

 Cady and her small group of near age cousins plus the nephew of her aunt's live in lover form a tight little group they call "The Liars" They are a separate entity from "The Littles" (or the younger cousins) and "The Aunts ( their mothers who happen to be sisters).  They plot and conspire and lollygag around their private beach homes on the private island and seem to be worried about how difficult each of them has it. ( I guess it is hard to be from an uber wealthy and privileged pedigree)

This novel seems to be marketed as "THE BIG GOTCHA" ending so I am reluctant to say to much about the book itself.  The overriding theme is everyone lies, has secrets,  and intolerances and you have to read quite a bit to find who is lying to whom. (I use the pronoun whom because it is the object of the preposition to and therefore should be in the objective case.  Son2 declared me archaic for using it, but on occasion I can be a grammar Nazi.)

The writing itself was ok, but it jumped back and forth from from novel form to verse and I find it irritating if there is no reason for the jump.  I guess because I was just being pissy about having to read the different forms, it took me a while to really stick with the book long enough to finish it.  When I finally got to the end and the big reveal I was tired of reading it.  I understand other people found it to be amazingly poignant and haunting.  Perhaps they are not as cynical or old as I am.

Read it for yourself and tell me what you think.  At this moment I would have to give it a "U" for underwhelming.  If you read it and have a different opinion please let me know.  Maybe I was in such a hurry to finally finish the book that I missed some profound lesson I was supposed to learn.

Friday, November 21, 2014

33 Days And Counting Until Christmas

This week begins my official "getting ready for Christmas" phase. I have a long cedar closet with a funky pitch to the ceiling.  When it is neatly organized it works well, but this past year it has gotten out of control.  It is completely filled with all of my Christmas decorations, plus other seasonal decorating items. ( Translation:  Too Much Stuff!)

Today I will pull it all out and purge whatever I no longer want/need.  A young woman I know has already claimed dibs on whatever I am tossing, which is great.  It keeps me from having to run to the thrift store to donate it and keeps her from having to spend any money.  Win/win!  Since I have no young children I am getting rid of everything "kiddo".  It should work out well for her with her 3 little ones.  I also have a few rolls of  partially used Christmas wrapping paper with juvenile prints.  I hope she wants those also.  You have no idea how happy I am to be doing this.

As soon as I have cleaned everything out, I will begin the process of deciding where things I keep will be placed.  I try and put the various decorations in different rooms/areas each year just to keep everyone on their toes.  Since we will be traveling across the country for Thanksgiving I want to have it all ready so I can blitz the house the day after we return and have everything Christmasy early. ( I will not need to use the dining room before we leave so I might go ahead and set things up in there and just leave the lights off until we return) Of course I might just be over-ambitious.

I am taking a few prepared easily totable foods to our sons.  It will take a little doing because we are flying so things have to pack easily.  I make killer peanut butter fudge which the whole family loves and it is much easier for me to cook it here than to cook there. ( We will be cooking Thanksgiving meal things at his house so I don't need to crowd the kitchen making candies)  I will also be taking praline fudge along with plain old chocolate fudge.  I can leave all that is left over and they can have it throughout the holidays.  I figure as long as I am cooking I might go ahead and make a couple of batches of Christmas cookie dough and stick them in the freezer.

Shopping this year is going to be different.  I will buy some things for our son and his family and for our other sons, but my parents want  and need nothing and neither does my sister.  I love having a lot of presents for them to unwrap so instead of the usual gifts, this year I am buying them mostly consumable items that they don't normally buy.  ( A whole ribeye sliced into steaks for Dad?  Pastas and various speciality  jarred sauces for Mom? Similar items for my sister and b-i-l. )  I think it might work out well for everyone, but whoever thought Publix and Piggly Wiggly would be their primary Christmas gift store?

Happy nearly holiday season.

p.s. If you are like me and have scored a stash of cheap pomegranates check out this video here.  I just tried it and it worked, but I did have a little splatter.  Thankfully I put the bowl in the sink before I tried the wooden spoon method.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Saving the Best for Last, Sweet Potato Hash Browns with Bacon

Day 28

Ah the blessed 3 day countdown begins.  I am really glad because I am almost cooked out. Actually I am not tired of cooking as much as I am tired of planning meals and thinking ahead.  I have never had any trouble throwing a meal together at the last minute until this food challenge.  With this I am always wondering "Did I make the paleo mayonnaise?'  Do I have enough cauliflower cooked?"  Oh no, did I remember to thaw the whatever?"   There is just so much food prep with this.  I am pretty sure I will stick with a paleo diet at least for a while, but doing a regular paleo will seem like a walk in the park after doing this.

breakfast  leftover collard and mustard greens
                2 Whole 30 sausage patties

lunch       apple with 1 tablespoon almond butter
                coffee/ water

supper     paleo chili over baked sweet potato
                cole slaw with paleo mayo
                unsweetened tea, water

Day 29

breakfast  paleo chorizo, nopales and egg scramble

lunch     sliced apple with almond butter

dinner    Chipotle's carnitas salad with pico and guacamole, again

Day 30

breakfast  sweet potato, onion, bacon hash browns

lunch     apple and 1 tablespoon almond butter

dinner    leftover pork tenderloin
              cooked carrots
              cabbage slaw with paleo mayo

                             Sweet Potato and Onion with Bacon Hash Browns

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut in a very small dice ( mine was just larger than a jumbo egg)
1/4 small onion cut in match stick pieces
2 slices cooked bacon
salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches chili powder

In a non stick pan heat the oil to a mid high heat.  Add the sweet potato and onion and cook until fairly crisp.  Add the cooked bacon, salt, pepper and chili powder and heat through, allowing the bacon to crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel covered plate.  After a quick blot of the excess coconut oil, serve immediately.

I had read about this during the first few days I was doing this program and decided I needed to wait toward the end before I tried it.  It was probably the best decision I have ever made, because I think I would have eaten this nearly every morning. The sweet potatoes were a perfect blend of soft and crunchy bits, the onions provided a nice sweet yet soft dynamic and the bacon, well it's bacon so enough said!   Paleo diet or not, these were outstanding.

Round up

I am writing this on day 31.  Yes that is correct, I am continuing with the plan.  I have decided to maintain a strict paleo diet 6 days a week. On the other day, well I guess there are no rules for it.

I learned a ton by reading labels.  Sugar is is just about everything, including that box of iodized salt nearly everyone has in their pantry.  MSG rears its ugly head a lot too, and soybean oil is the oil of choice in prepared foods.  I also learned really good for you oils are EXPENSIVE.

Without trying to lose weight I did lose enough that I see the value of eating this way.  I feel better and have not reached for a Tums once, even after eating highly seasoned foods.  So I guess I will continue to make my own sausages and mayonnaise and ketchup.  As an aside, it does not take me long to shop in a grocery store now.  I zip up and down the produce section then by the meats.  After grabbing a few frozen vegetables I am out the door.

I am adding stevia back to my everyday diet.  I am from the south and have really missed sweet tea. I will also make an occasional paleo muffin recipe and might even venture into paleo "bread" making. (Well, I will venture once, if it takes too much time I won't venture a second time)

If you want to get back to basics the Whole 30 plan is a good start.  My only recommendation would be to have a few things like ketchup and mayo prepared before you begin!    

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Salmon Fritatta Day 25, 26 and 27

Day 25

I confess this is getting boring and difficult now.  We used to eat out a couple of nights a week and eat somewhere fabulous (or just fabulous tasting) at least once a month.  Now our eating out is mostly take out from Chipotle's.  Don't get me wrong, the carnitas salad with pico and guacamole is really tasty and I have been enjoying it very much.  It's just that I am ready to go somewhere and sit down with a drink and perhaps have a bite or two of the bread.  I am talking about tiny bites, not much and not more than one day a week.

I didn't want to cook tonight so we went out to Bluff Park Diner, a nearby meat and three.  For any of you not from the south, a meat and three is generally a cafeteria type place which serves 3 types of plates:  a meat with 2 vegetables (Did you know that in the south mac and cheese is a veggie?), a meat with 3 vegetables or a vegetable plate with three vegetables.  I had already decided that whatever I could legally eat was what I would have.  As it turned out, it was not really great, but hey, I didn't have to cook.

breakfast  leftover pork tenderloin, broccoli and carrots ( I only had to nuke it)

lunch       apple
                turkey slices

dinner      yellow squash and onions
                green beans
                turnip greens ( I really, really wanted the cornbread that came with the meal)
                unsweetened tea
later         clementine

Day 26

 Book club night with some of my favorite people.  Tonight we met at Firebird's to eat and gab instead of talking about the book since we never decided on one last month.  Occasionally we all get caught up in day to day stuff and have a month like this.  Funny that no one minds at all.  Man will I be glad when this month is over. I really wanted just 1 bite of the bread. Well one bite of bread and a Double Black Diamond Martini.  Maybe next month

breakfast  salmon fritatta with onions and collards

lunch       clementine

dinner     Firebird's grilled salmon, green beans, mixed vegetables, ahi tuna
               unsweetened tea

later        too many cashews, again

                                            Salmon Fritatta with collard greens and onions

              To put things in perspective, this is a full size dinner plate, not a breakfast one

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/12 cup chopped collard greens
1/4 small onion chopped
1/4ish cup canned wild Alaskan salmon, broken up in small pieces ( I just eyeballed)
1 egg, beaten

In a non stick skillet heat the oil to mid high and add the collards and onions.  Cook, stirring often until the greens wilt and are about half of their beginning bulk.  Add the salmon and heat it through.  Pour the beaten egg over the top of the salmon and cook covered until the egg is cooked through. (about 4 minutes maybe)  Serve on a plate and enjoy.  This makes a huge breakfast serving.

I wish I remembered what blog I saw this on. ( I forgot to bookmark it, plus I really have no idea what the original recipe was.  I only remembered kale, eggs and salmon and added the onion because I had collards rather than kale and thought it might help the flavor a bit.0  This was a very good breakfast, probably best eaten mid morning unless you are a fan of fish early.

 I am obsessive about washing my hands when cooking and often use them as cooking tools.  This morning I used my fingers to crumble the salmon. Big Mistake!  After washing my hands tons of times during the day, Shelby the dog kept doing a drive by licking every time she passed me.  It was not until I got in the car with its close confines that I realized my hands still had a slight salmon odor.  Use a folk and don't smell like cat food all day.

Day 27

4 days and counting!  After eating out last night I had much larger servings than I have been eating and was still not hungry this morning.  I decided to eat when I was hungry and not before.  After doing some house stuff and running to a couple of grocery stores I decided to stop by my parents house.  They were eating some soup I could not eat, but just smelling it made my stomach growl.  Thankfully they had an apple and I ate that. After visiting with them  a couple of hours it was getting close to time to begin cooking supper.  I was getting really hungry but it was too near dinner time to eat anything.

Breakfast  wasn't hungry

lunch        out and about, no time to eat
                 coffee and water

snack        apple

dinner      pork tenderloin
                baked sweet potato
                huge mound of sauteed collard greens, mustard greens, and onions
                coffee with almond milk

Monday, November 10, 2014

Crazy Cactus Breakfast Scramble...Day 22,23 and 24

Day 22

breakfast  delicious chorizo, egg, onion, cactus scramble

lunch        apple with almond butter

dinner       hamburger patty with mushrooms and onions
                 tossed salad
                 green beans
                                                 Crazy Cactus Breakfast Scramble

1 serving paleo chorizo
1 small onion sliced in rings
1/2 jar brine packed cactus (nopales)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste (taste prior to adding salt though)

Brown the chorizo in a small nonstick pan.  Add the onion slices and cook through.  In a colander drain the cactus well.  Add it to the pan and heat until it is bubbling.  Push everything to one side and add the egg.  Stir to scramble then mix it in with the sausage, cactus and onions.  Cover and let it heat for about a minute.  Serve immediately.  This makes a huge  very different yet tasty ( no delicious) breakfast.

I have Sonya Ann @ Mom, Money and More to thank for this.  Looks like you are becoming my cooking Muse. I loved the way this tasted and I loved the different flavor. I also loved the heat that the cactus has ( compliments of being pickled with a hot pepper)  This was a tad salty for my taste so next time I will rinse a bit of the brine off while it is draining in the colander.  This was also a very fast breakfast from start to finish.  I can see doing this well after this food challenge is over.

Paleo Chorizo

1 pound ground pork
1 3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
1 heaping tablespoon paprika
dash cayenne
1 pinch allspice
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 quick shake red pepper flakes

Put all ingredients in a gallon size zip lock bag and squish it around until everything is mixed well. ( leave a small opening when zipping the bag so air can  get out and you can mix it well. Close the zip completely and leave in the bag in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day portion as desired.  Use some immediately and freeze the rest, or use it all.  Your choice.

I found this recipe @Meatified and used it as a starting point.  I mainly changed it to use what I had rather than go buy anything additional.  If you read the ingredients on a chorizo package you will probably never buy it again.  This is a fantastic alternative!

Day 23

breakfast  orange juice
                hamburger patty with paleo ketchup and mustard

lunch       salad
               1 tablespoon almond butter

dinner    pork tenderloin
              roasted potato (half)
              salad with 1 tablespoon paleo mayonnaise
              unsweetened tea

later       1 clementine

Day 24

breakfast  scrambled eggs and bacon

lunch       leftover hamburger patty w/ paleo ketchup
               leftover tossed salad with oil and lemon juice

dinner     Chipotle's carnitas salad with pico and guacamole

later         clementine

Friday, November 7, 2014

Whole30 day 19,20 and 21

Day 19

 Regular day in Birmingham with the exception of voting.  I am a regular voter and my next door neighbor is a poll worker for every  election. (local, state, national)  I walk in and go to the E-K table and who is there, but my neighbor Jane.  She says "Hi Anne"  I greet her by name and then she asks to see my license to verify who I am?  Crazy!

breakfast   Fritatta made with spaghetti squash, caramelized onions, 1 slice ham, and 1 egg

lunch         tossed salad with oil and vinegar
                  handful of mixed nuts ( no peanuts though)

dinner       pork chops over steamed cabbage and onions
                 unsweetened tea

Day 20

breakfast  1 egg scrambled with 1 chopped tomato and 1/2 small onion, chopped

lunch       dry green salad with avocado, chicken and pecans
snack       cashews (way too many, BTW oven roasted raw cashews are the bomb)

dinner    weird but tasty skillet meal of ground turkey, onions, peppers, apples and sweet potatoes
               unsweetened tea

                                          Weird but Tasty Turkey, Apple Scramble

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large onion in thin slices
1 small bell pepper in matchstick slices
2 large apples, cored and cut in thin wedges
1 pound ground turkey
2 small baked sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in large cubes
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the coconut oil to a mid high heat.  Add the onions and peppers and cook until wilted.  Add the apple wedges and cook until the apples are crisp tender.  Remove the apples from the pan and add the turkey, stirring and cooking until it is almost cooked through.  Add the apples and sweet potatoes back into the skillet, salt and pepper to taste, cover with a lid and turn the heat to medium low.  Cook until everything is bubbly hot and the apples are cooked.  Serve on a plate and enjoy.  This made 3 very generous portions, but would also easily feed 2 adults and 3 children.

Day 21

Oh my goodness!  Just 10 more days until this challenge is over and done.

breakfast   coffee (Sorry life, but you got in my way this morning)

lunch        1 chicken breast
                 shredded lettuce
                 tomato slice
                 fruit cup
                 unsweetened tea

dinner       roasted chicken
                cole slaw with paleo mayonnaise
                hash brown made with potatoes, onions and spaghetti squash
                unsweetened tea and coffee

later         pear and too many cashews

Paleo Mayonnaise ( no picture)

3/4 cup oil (Olive, avocado, or macadamia preferred)
1 room temperature egg yolk (large or jumbo)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon mustard ( the stuff in the yellow squirt bottle)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Divide the oil in two cups ( I use my creamer for 1/2 cup and the measuring cup for the other 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup and 1/4 cup.  With a whisk beat the egg yolk in a glass bowl (glass or glazed pottery, it makes a difference ) until it changes to a lemony color.  Add the vinegar, mustard and salt and continue to beat until it is well blended.  Add 1/4 cup oil and whip it until it starts to thicken a bit.  Now here is the tricky part.  Add the oil in the tiniest trickle you can possibly pour, drops at a time is even better. Whisk and whisk and whisk and whisk until all the oil is incorporated  and the mixture is light and fluffy. This will take a while but keep drizzling and whisking.  When it is all light and fluffy add the lemon juice,  Whip an additional time or two and now you have mayonnaise. (If it fails, and mine has failed before, turn it into salad dressing)


Monday, November 3, 2014

Paleo Chicken Lettuce Wraps Whole30 Day 14, 15 , 16, 17 and 18

Day 14

This was an in and out day, one of those where you are in and out of the car more than being any one place very long. Arrived home for the day just in time to get dressed to celebrate our anniversary.  Rather than worrying about doing something on the actual date, we tend to just pick a convenient night.  Thank you to Flemming's for cooking my food so I could enjoy a nice night out, while remaining true to the Whole30 plan.  If you are celebrating let me recommend Flemming's Steak House to you.  We had reservations, and, after being wished a Happy Anniversary by all 3 of the young women at the hostess stand we were led to our table.  It was set for 2 with a lovely card signed by the staff, and every single staff member who came by our table mentioned the anniversary.  When we were leaving they brought us a box of truffles to take home.  Their attention to detail was far from what I thought a chain restaurant would ever attain.  Kudo's to them!

Breakfast      leftover fried rice
                     scrambled egg

Lunch          turkey slices
                    1/2 Lara bar ( carrot cake)

Dinner         seared ahi tuna
                    broiled steak
                    grilled asparagus
                    1/2 baked potato
                    mineral water

Day 15

Today was another day with no rhyme or reason.  I had no car until just before lunch time ( not so minor repairs) and then had a series of errands.  Plus it is Halloween!  That meant no walking by the treat bowl and snagging any.  Get thee behind me Hershey Bar.

Breakfast     leftover steak, asparagus and sauteed mushrooms
                    1 orange

Lunch         turkey slices
                   apple juice
                   cucumber slices
                   handful cashews

Dinner        paleo chili
                   tossed salad w/ oil and vinegar
                   club soda

Later          1 Lara bar (And yes, I  technically violated the rules and had it instead of candy)
                   coffee with 1 tablespoon almond milk ( But come on people it was Halloween and all I        
                   really wanted was a Hershey bar)

Day 16

Yikes this was a day I dreaded.  We had tickets to a fundraiser that included dinner.  I had absolutely no control over what would be served.  When we arrived at our table I found a salad at each place.  It did have crumbled feta on it but I could get it off 'cause I have mad fork skills. I was happily surprised when the servers brought out plates with grilled chicken slices over rice, sauteed vegetables, pita wedges and tzazaki sauce.  I ignored the rice, bread, and sauce and devoured the rest.  There might have been some incidental food crossover, but if there was it was microscopic.

Oh yeah, and now I am on the downhill side of the 30 day challenge!

Breakfast   tossed salad, oil and vinegar
                  3 slices turkey

Lunch       3 slices ham
                 tossed salad (dry)

Snack       apple

Dinner     3 slices grilled chicken
                dry salad
                sauteed vegetables (looked like squash, onion and mushrooms)
                coffee and unsweetened tea

Day 17

Sunday was the beginning of CST, so we got an extra hour of sleep.  Instead of hopping up and making breakfast like I should have, I stayed in the bed and read.  When I finally got up it was time to get ready for church, so I skipped breakfast.  The rest of the day was just going from one place to another, with a short stop for lunch out. I have not been cooking much and now things are getting boring.  Gotta up my food game!

Breakfast      none

Lunch         Chipotle's carnitas salad with salsa and guacamole

Dinner       chili stuffed sweet potato

Later        handful dried mulberries
                coffee with 1 tablespoon almond milk
                2 paleo sausage patties ( I was still hungry)

Day 18

Breakfast  1 teaspoon coconut oil
                 onions, tomatoes, peppers, and 1 slice crumbled bacon scrambled with 1 egg

Lunch       apple with 1 tablespoon almond butter
                 cucumber slices
                 dry tossed salad

Dinner      paleo chicken lettuce wraps

I found a recipe for chicken lettuce wraps at one lovely life and used it mainly as a guide for making lettuce wraps with what I had on hand.  As badly as I need to go to the store I just did not feel like going today.  I had 2 cooked chicken breasts and 2 summer squash I needed to use so I came up with an entirely different , yet tasty alternate recipe.  The following is my recipe but click on the link for the original one.

                                                  Paleo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 small onion cut into strips
1 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced finely
2  medium yellow summer squash cut in matchstick slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 container bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded and chopped into very small pieces
1 cup cooked spaghetti squash
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup coconut aminos
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
6 lettuce leaves

In a skillet heat the oil to a med hi heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring continually.  Toss in the ginger and cook until it wilts.  Add the summer squash and then the garlic cooking until everything is wilted.  Add the bean sprouts and the chicken  and heat through, stirring the entire time.  Add the spaghetti squash, salt and pepper and the coconut aminos.  Bring to a high heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.  Serve in lettuce leaves and wrap tightly.  Enjoy but have a lot of napkins.  Eating this is delicious but messy.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Whatever Post, My All Time Favorite Book

"When a true genius appears, you can know 

him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a 

confederacy against him."   Jonathan Swift

Whenever anyone asks me what my all time favorite book is, I don't have to stop and think.  It's not one of the classics, nor is it a dramatic piece. Hands down my favorite book is "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole.  I have read it about 15 times and still pick it up and read bits from it regularly.

A smeared carbon copy of his manuscript was found in his home, shortly after his untimely death.  Thanks to his mother, who bugged Walker Percy to death, the book was published by LSU Press in 1980 and became a cult hit.  Slowly its popularity gained momentum and it was  awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.

Where to begin?  COD is set in New Orleans in the early 60's. Ignatius J. Riley is out and about in his home town.  Ig (just because it is easier to type) is one of those people who have very firm and fast codes regarding how everything should work, how every person should think, basically how the entire world should run.  Unfortunately for him, the world runs rather contrarily to his particular and peculiar ethos.

The entire book takes place in a very short time span, sending us on a romp through Uptown New Orleans and The French Quarters.  Ignatius, 30 and unemployed, is living with his Mama while trying to avoid the real necessity of producing income.  After listening to the urgings of a couple of friends, his mother insists he find employment.  The resulting job searches and jobs introduce us to a wonderful cast of characters and situations. At the same time we are privy to Ig's ongoing written communications with a former college classmate, New York beatnik Myrna Minkoff (The Minx). Through all of this we get to see his world through his eyes.  I think the only words to describe it would be a tragic comedy.

There is no way I could possibly do justice to any of the actual writing so I will not even begin to try.  If I taught high school English this would be on my required reading list.  It has the best character development I have ever read.  ( If I were a high school English teacher I would probably be fired for having my students read this book.)

Toole weaves a fantastic yarn. The chapters are usually divided into parts.  One is the narrative, the other is Ignatius' mail with Myrna and the third is excerpts from Boethius' "Consolation of Philosophy", and Ig's penned responses to it.   Toole  also works magic writing in the various voices  and accents that are indigenous to the South and New Orleans.  If you are familiar with the city, then you understand what I mean, and if not just read it, enjoy it, and learn.

If you love to read and love to laugh this is the book for you.  I read it in 1981 for the first time and fell in love/dislike with every single character.  Now,  all these years later I still find them as alluring, appealing,  and unbelievable as I did the first time I met them on the page.  I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

If you do read this or have read it before please tell me what you did or did not like about it.  If you read it because of this review and didn't like it I will sit down while wearing my Ignatius hat and send you a apology letter written on a page from a Big Chief tablet!  I promise!

p.s. I love this book so much, I own 3 copies.  2 are loaners and I will lend them to anyone who wants to read it, but the 3rd is never loaned to anyone.  Grove Atlantic Press started publishing it through permission of LSU Press.  Originally I only had copies by Grove, but thanks to Little Professor Bookstore and about a 3 year wait, I have an LSU Press copy.  Book nerd nirvana!