Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook

Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly's New Orleans
“Canned food is a perversion,' Ignatius said. 'I suspect that it is ultimately very damaging to the soul.”
                   ― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

By Doc Lawrence

NEW ORLEANS-Stroll down Canal Street on the sidewalk that fronted on D.H. Holmes department store and you’ll be greeted by the statue of Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist of A Confederacy of Dunces, the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel by John Kennedy Toole. It’s standing near today’s Ritz-Carlton and rare is the moment when someone isn’t posing for American literature’s best-known slacker.

Like Twain’s Huckleberry, Ignatius has become part of the American scene where the lines between. fiction and fact are blurred. At last, we have an extension of the novel's exalted place in Americana: an original cookbook and a doggone good one at that.

Recall the larger-than-life, overweight Ignatius living with his mother Irene in 1960s New Orleans. Viewed by some as the Don Quixote of the French Quarter, Ignatius is the star of the farce that still attracts a global audience. The stage play of Confederacy was performed a few years back by Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit and is on the road now. Such expansiveness and longevity merits a cookbook and we are grateful that one author had the ability to do what would appear to be quite daunting.

Ms. Nobles with Ignatius
Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, a cookbook editor at the Louisiana State University Press, was asked to undertake the task of writing a Confederacy of Dunces cookbook. "When I first read the novel,” Nobles said, “the most captivating thing to me was it had all this food in the book." Author of "The Delta Queen Cookbook, and a member of the Newcomb College Culinary History Writers Group, Nobles spent a year researching and writing. The result: A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly's New Orleans (LSU Press), with over 200 recipes plus stories and photographs.
The Legendary Weenie Wagon

Ms. Nobles confirms that the research for her cookbook was fun, often delicious.” I gained 10 pounds,” she admits. Everything resulted in a highly readable, well organized work loaded with recipes and stories from Toole’s classic novel along with her interesting insights about legendary restaurants like Antoine’s in the French Quarter and descriptions of the ethnic neighborhoods of New Orleans.

Using one of the author’s original recipes, I entertained guests with her multicultural  Muscatel Braised Lamb Shanks with Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes. A bottle of Malbec from Argentina complimented the dish in the grandest tradition of New Orleans dining.

Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's
The chapters bring the reader back to that first reading of Toole’s novel with an added lagniappe: tested and reliable recipes that include many classic cocktails. Chapter titles “Hanging Out with Burma Jones,” “In the Kitchen with Irene Reilly,” “Santa Battaglia, or How to Cook Like a Sicilian” are just a few. The French Quarter’s iconic weenie wagon stars in the chapter “Adventures with Paradise Vendors.”

Come on along with Ignatius, Irene, Claude, Burma, Lana Lee, Patrolman Mancuso, Darlene, Miss Trixie and Gus Levy. You’ll have at least three memorable meals daily, unlimited refreshing cocktails and enjoy some of the best stories found on cookbook pages in recent years.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memorial Day Recipes and Wines

From Emmy Nominated Chef Lara Lyn Carter

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman

By Doc Lawrence

Quail On The Grill
ATLANTA-It’s a holiday weekend, a time of remembrance and like almost every American commemoration, it becomes a celebration, a gathering centered on family and friends where food and appropriate beverages are added treats. Nostalgia and gratitude combine well with our coming together.

It’s getting warmer here as spring gently winds down and that means cooking and entertaining outdoors. Fire the grills, ice down some good things to drink and let the good times begin. For many years we’ve provided relevant recipes from various chefs and on occasion, gone back into some old cookbooks for ideas.

This year, the bright shinning star chef, Lara Lyn Carter provided originals, something the Emmy-nominated host of the PBS hit, Thyme for Sharing, does skillfully.


       By Lara Lyn Carter
Jack’s Grilled Quail
1/4 cup Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Whiskey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4-cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-teaspoon coarse salt
8 quail (I use Manchester Farms)
Mix all ingredients together then pour over quail allowing the quail to marinate 2-4 hours before grilling.
Grill the quail over indirect heat 8-10 minutes per side.

Whiskey Baked Beans
1 lb. dry kidney beans
1 sweet Vidalia onion quartered

4 quarts of water divided
Soak beans in 2 quarts of water overnight. Drain beans and discard the water. In a large pot, cook beans and onion in 2 quarts of water over medium-high heat for 45 minutes. Remove beans from heat, cover and allow beans to rest for 30 minutes.
1/2-cup sorghum
1/2-cup ketchup
1/2-cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground clove
3 tbsp. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Whiskey
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sorghum, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, ginger, clove, and whiskey. Stir constantly until all of the ingredients have blended well and the sugar has dissolved. Pour beans with the water in a Dutch oven and pour sauce over beans and stir well. Cover beans and bake at 325 degrees for 3 hours.

Wines have a prominent place in our celebration, selected to be comfortably enjoyed with Lara Lyn’s dishes. With her quail, a white wine really works. Rodney Strong 2015 Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc is balanced, has backbone and the zesty notes of seasonal fruit pairs well with the quail.
For a red wine, you can’t go wrong with the 2013 King Estate Domaine Pinot Noir, a Willamette Valley wonder with some subtle flavors of cherry, strawberry and cranberry.  

Enjoy all that makes us special: The bounty from our farms, the vintages from the vineyards, the culinary heritage of the Deep South and the glory of America.

NOTE: For those who were entertained by Lara Lyn’s wonderful shows and those who may have missed one, here’s the spectacular production from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, a testament to her television skills that should earn the Emmy Award announced in mid-June:
Thyme for Sharing: https://vimeo.com/139257799.

Lara Lyn Carter (center) with GPB Production Team

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Washington Dinner Party

Horizon Theatre’s City of Conversation: Politics Can Be Fun

“If you do not find within yourself that which you seek, neither will you find it outside. In you is hidden the treasure of treasures. Know thyself and you will know the Universe and the Gods.”                            The Oracle at Delphi

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Just hours after watching the HBO production of “All the Way,” featuring mesmerizing performances by Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Johnson and Frank Langella portraying Richard Russell, the elegant senator from Georgia, I was primed for more tales of Washington. Horizon Theatre’s The City of Conversation, a two and one-half-hour play from Anthony Giardina, took me to an exquisitely appointed Georgetown home beginning with the last days of Jimmy Carter in the White House to the first inauguration of Barack Obama.

Dominated by cerebral matron Hester Ferris, masterfully performed by Tess Malis Kincaid, every man, woman and child gets their comeuppance through her wit, intelligence, stubbornness and strongly held beliefs. Without Hester, this play could become a showcase of empty minds, blind ambition and temporary relationships. Imagine Harold Pinter with a play about a Georgetown dinner party.

Hester has more than an inkling of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, John Locke, Eleanor Roosevelt and others whose thoughts and efforts created the best of America. She presents a convincing case that an ill-conceived Supreme Court nomination is wrought with danger. It’s not enough to parade potentials who are just lawyers with a good resume or empty suits posing as jurists. These are pigs in a poke. Take no chances, Hester commands, armed always with unlimited pours of Cognac and Bourbon.

Every memorable dinner should have one provocative guest. Hester would be mine, deviously seated beside the most pompous blowhard. Entertained by one magnificently charming woman, here’s a dinner for the ages.

The other adults we meet during these new mornings in America are homogenous government drones with degrees (law, finance, banking) from the best universities. Steeped in everything superficial, they have a vulture’s eye for prestigious jobs, seats of power, good sex and a victory at all cost every now and then. Hester’s grandson, a victim of all this, grows up to be better, a public school teacher with different life choices. His career path was influenced by what must have been a painful childhood overseen by his shrill and irritating parents who predictably split before he was emancipated.

Much like the Oracle at Delphi, Hester shares a glimpse of America’s future. There are hints that nothing can withstand the force of ideas whose time has come. Time marches on. Just before the final curtain, she leaves the stage on the arm of a new young friend, headed off to dance at an inaugural celebration with a new generation of men and women who are quite different than those at her legendary dinners.

Hester adapts well. Can we?

Strong performances by Carolyn Cook as Hester’s sister, Chris Kayser as Hester’s lover Senator Chandler and Rachel Garner in a dynamite performance as a ambitiously defiant daughter in law all tightly directed by Justin Anderson make this a compelling play for those who wonder when Washington will break off from the continent to float away down the Potomac.

(404) 584.7450

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cocktails & Dinner in the French Quarter

Tujague’s Cookbook Takes You There

“Tujague’s is truly a neighborhood restaurant, located in America’s oldest neighborhood—the French Quarter. . . . This is one of the things that makes New Orleans so special and is indicative of the important role restaurants play in our culture.”
                Poppy Tooker, Tujague’s Cookbook                        

By Doc Lawrence

NEW ORLEANS-My first visit to the French Quarter was way back when I was a very innocent 17 year-old aimlessly walking around before marching with a military drill team the next day in a parade. A nice lady from Germany took a lost soul under her wings and led me to a grand restaurant on Decatur Street, force-feeding me a whiskey punch cocktail and sharing stunning shrimp and oysters. Drawn back by the charm of the city many times, one memory sticks out: Tujague’s, a landmark American restaurant.

Like so much of the French Quarter, this institution escaped the wrecking ball and Katrina and we who don’t live there are rewarded because much of the culinary glory is preserved in print, particularly through the handiwork of author Poppy Tooker and her wonderfully written and skillfully produced Tujague’s Cookbook (Pelican Publishing, Gretna, La.)

There are many excellent restaurants in the Quarter, but few have such venerable ancestral lines. Founded by immigrant butchers, Tujague’s, according to Ms. Tooker, has stayed true to the spirit and continuity of this unique neighborhood, keeping a kinship to the fruits of the abundant waters and the cooking styles of the melting pot culture.

Authenticity is a hallowed ethic here and even with the new celebrity chefs and the influences of popular culture in America, the deeper roots of New Orleans kitchens pay homage to early cooks who used what was at hand and evolved everything into a distinct culinary heritage that never stales yet is always evolving.

If you’ve dined at Tujague’s or any of the older classic restaurants in the Quarter, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Creole Cream Cheese Pie
Paul Prudhomme and John Folse through their cookbooks, celebrity appearances on television and countless cooking demonstrations did much to promote appreciation for the food served in South Louisiana restaurants and thus became our teachers.. The language and nomenclature once very daunting, was simplified, a masterful undertaking that brought the gift of this remarkable cuisine and bedrock recipes into home kitchens coast to coast. Gumbo and jambalaya suddenly found companions like courtbouillion, andouille sausage and the many ways to enjoy oysters.

Likewise, Poppy Tooker takes the mystery out of the exciting recipes from Tujague’s anthology with a huge array of recipes where authentic ingredients are today easily obtainable, presenting them in a way that inspires even the beginner to go get some groceries and start cooking up some Oysters Benedict with Tujague’s Buttermilk Biscuits. For lunch, let’s have Sautéed Shrimp and Okra with Smoked Sausage. Wines? The meals become elevated with a bottle of Gevrey Chambertin, one of Napolean’s favorites, and Cru Chablis, which Ernest Hemingway loved with oysters.

Cocktails were born in the French Quarter and as a bonus for readers, Ms. Tooker tells the story of the green fairy, Antoine Peychaud and the Sazerac. Home entertaining usually includes cocktails and wines, and as her book demonstrates, sophisticated beverages owe homage to New Orleans. The recipes include the frothy Grasshopper, a delicious cocktail that, like Whiskey Punch, originated at Tujague’s.

Tujague’s Cookbook has some muscle and a whole lot of depth. A beautiful production with a vast selection of ancient and contemporary photographs, it would be a terrific gift for Father’s Day, any birthday or for yourself if you long to get back to the basics of good cooking and meaningful entertaining.

Monday, May 16, 2016


Color Vibe Fun Run With Breakfast

By Doc Lawrence

Magnolia In Full Bloom
STONE MOUNTAIN, GA- Saturday down South became a magnolia morning with the air perfumed by the many white blossoms in full splendor. The sky was a baby blue umbrella and dew was still on the grass, as neighbors gathered to watch over five thousand participants in the nearby park warm up for the Color Vibe 5K run, a family-friendly event showcasing the power and the glory of good-will, fellowship and friendly competition. Now in its third year in Stone Mountain, the historic village just outside Atlanta, Color Vibe is a firmly established springtime tradition.
The Race Begins!

“This is a huge success for the community,” said Kim Cumbie who directs the Stone Mountain Visitors Center and is the Color Vibe event coordinator. What makes this a unique version of Color Vibe, a Utah-headquartered organization, is that Stone Mountain is a small town. “Most of their races are in larger cities and in parks or stadiums. This is in a lovely residential area deeply steeped in history. It has impressed their leaders.”

There was a bonus for those watching the race: Breakfast al fresco on Ann Hamby’s lawn just above the starting line. An accomplished cook who entertains with unbridled enthusiasm, Ms. Hamby uncovered a spread that included a choice of sausage and ham biscuits,  fresh fruits and a variety of pastries featuring some divine cinnamon rolls served with hot coffee,  juices and variety of drinks from a large tub.

Kim Cumbie
The runners, an assemblage of young adults, seniors, teens and small children, came together from places ranging from nearby cities to those a good distance away like Athens. Some were racing in wheelchairs and a few had babies comfortably strapped to their backs. Covered with blasts of harmless colored powder made of cornstarch, everyone suddenly seemed iridescent purple and red. Laugher and shouts of glee blended seamlessly with music booming from the park.

We had the advantage of observing, cheering them on while enjoying breakfast.

What about next year? “This is now part of our community,” responded Kim Cumbie with her trademark bubbly optimism. “It introduces us to so many nice people and inspires them to come back and visit, shop and learn more about us. That is a priceless benefit.”

The living was sweet and easy on this Saturday morning, enriched by the gathering of good people taking time to smell the magnolias.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Mother's Day 2018

“My latest sun is sinking fast, my race is nearly run
My strongest trials now are past, my triumph has begun
Oh, come angel band come and around me stand
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home.”

                          “Angel Band”-Emmylou Harris

By Doc Lawrence

Mothers are precious. I miss this wonderful woman, her laughter, her favorite songs and her Southern dinner table, particularly Sunday after church and holidays. You'd have to love fried chicken, meat loaf (we always had two meats), creamed corn, fried okra, congealed salad, whatever greens were in season, pole beans, field peas, macaroni and cheese and choices of desert ranging from coconut layer cake to peach cobbler. I still believe she made her lemon meringue pie just for me and to this day I've not had a dessert that could come close to matching its dazzling array of flavors and gently browned meringue.

The memories of those days together may be a little faded, but, in the words of one of her favorite hymns, "how they linger, ever near me, and the sacred past unfolds."

A child of the Depression and World War II, my mother represented the finest of the Deep South. Although she never said it, her role model had to be Scarlett O’Hara. Survival and accomplishment were embodied in a beautiful woman who faced fate squarely and despite unconscionable losses along the way including the death of her youngest child, moved forward to face life relentlessly. 

Her name was Carrie and true to the good manners of her time, she was addressed with respect as “Miss Carrie.” Cruel poverty denied her much formal education, but she loved to read and found time to read bedtime stories to me before I was in kindergarten. Saturdays were library days. Books, newspapers and magazines have been vital, enriching parts of my daily living thanks to her. Names like Celestine Sibley, Margaret Ann Barnes, Catherine Marshall, Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell were on the dust covers of her books.

She departed this world before my first book was published, but she is the reason it happened.

She enjoyed working, earning some extra cash to keep her three children a little ahead with occasional extras. While I was a skinny teenager, she worked in the record shop at Rich’s, a legendary department store in Atlanta. She brought home promotional sample records, and I was introduced to then obscure names like Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson, Bo Diddly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Patsy Cline and Elvis. A new world of rhythm and harmony opened and I became a rocker, playing and singing with a good band in college. No one ever introduced me to the majestic music of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Screaming' Jay Hawkins or John Lee Hooker. Their music was played loud and clear on those 45's Mom supplied regularly. 

I have never been happier.

It's possible that my mother attended all of Elvis’ concerts in Atlanta. One morning during the Dog Days of August, she called and informed me of his death. I still remember the sharp pain in her voice. 

A devoted Atlanta Braves fan, it was understood that she would never die during baseball season. Her time on earth ended during the December holidays while her beloved Braves were on vacation.

Like Emmylou Harris, Zelda Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Helen Keller, Tallulah Bankhead and Truman Capote’s Aunt Sook, Mom was an Alabama girl. Born and raised in Sulphur Springs in the northeast corner of the state, Lookout Mountain forms a spectacular backdrop. I always thought it would be a wonderful place for a child.

I’ll visit her grave early Sunday morning to place roses. As the Georgia sun peeks through the pines, sometimes the air stirs a little. During moments of great peace, I listen carefully for the flutter of angel wings.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Me and Jezebel-An Engaging Play 

By Doc Lawrence

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-Once upon a time,  the legendary and displaced Bette Davis was invited to a dinner party at the New England home of star-struck Elizabeth Fuller where she stayed…and stayed…and stayed.

Based on a true story, Me and Jezebel is a candidly funny account of trying to please the irascible queen of Hollywood. It overflows with one-liners as saucy as Bette Davis. For those who recall with affection one of the dominant stars of the Silver Screen (I remain a fan), be very aware that this is not a play for tender ears. Written in 1992, Me and Jezebel, tells the story of Elizabeth Fuller (“me”) and Bette Davis (“Jezebel,” from her role in the film by that name). In 1985, Ms. Fuller had the opportunity to entertain Bette Davis for dinner at her Connecticut home. A life-long fan, Fuller shared a love of Ms. Davis with her grandmother. When Ms. Davis, who almost on cue could be nice or naughty, called to thank her, she asked if she could spend a night or two because of a New York City hotel strike. Ms. Fuller was thrilled to have her. To her husband’s dismay, the stay became thirty-two days of laughter, outrage and more than a few tender moments.
The Famous Houseguest

Elizabeth Fuller is an author of eight published nonfiction books. During Ms. Davis’ extended stay, she kept a journal chronicling the daily escapades of one of the most famous houseguests in history.

Googie Uterhardt, a seasoned Atlanta actor, does a first-rate job portraying Bette Davis. The attitude, dry wit, tone of voice, expressions, mannerisms and chain smoking (harmless props as are the pours of wine and booze) combine to provide authenticity. To the playwright’s credit, the script isn’t one-dimensional. Bette Davis vacillates between outrageousness and kindness, taking time to enjoy Fuller’s four-year-old son.

Aretta Baumgartner not only portrays Ms. Fuller with enthusiasm, but also her four-year-old son, her husband and a woman who stops by. Continuously on stage as she tells the story to the audience, she seamlessly slips from narration to acting, changing her voice for the different characters.

Art Station by Jane Chu
True to Bette Davis’ character, Me and Jezebel is an engaging play, full of humor and emotion, salted with irreverence. If you love those Bette Davis eyes and never miss one of her hits on Turner Classic Movies, this is the play you’ve been waiting for. I feel cheated that I never had a chance to have Bette over for cocktails and dinner.

Thursdays – Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., & Sundays at 3:00 p.m. An additional, Wednesday morning matinee on May 11 at 10:30 has been added. Runs through May 15. Tickets: (770) 469-1105 or www.artstation.org.