American Tabloid and Paste di Mandorla

“It’s time to demythologise an era and build a new myth from the gutter to the stars. It’s time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define their name. Here’s to them.” – American Tabloid

American Tabloid by James Ellroy is appalling, but unputdownable. Riddled with violence, drugs, pornography, theft, prostitution, beastiality and anything else that can have negative connotations for the human psychy, it takes the reader on a hell bent roller coaster ride through 1950s and 1960s America.

The protagonists are FBI men, gangsters, the Kennedys. They all work for each other, detest each other, kill each other and nurse crippling grudges. It is a fascinating portrayal of America in these decades with politically unstable Cuba on its doorstep and the un-farfetched imminent threat of nuclear war.

I found the book enjoyable because of its succinct style. The sentences are short and straightforward. The journalistic vein and scandalous content made me hungry to read more and all of it as fast as possible. It reminded me a lot of the novels of Hunter S. Thompson. The selection of inter-connected narratives can become confusing and overwhelming at times, but powering through is most definitely the action to be adopted when approaching Ellroy’s book. Not for the faint hearted.

I read most of American Tabloid while reviving a love for Sicilian cuisine after a trip to Dublin’s Il Valentino. I baked Paste di Mandorla the other day, a Sicilian sweet made with ground almonds, icing sugar and egg whites. These are bite-sized and deliciously moist if they turn out right. Serve with an espresso and you’ll believe you are amidst the orange groves of the Sicilian planes in no time.

Paste di Mandorla


250g ground almonds

200g icing sugar + extra for dusting

2-3 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp honey


Preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix the almonds, sugar, honey and vanilla extract in a bowl. Add 2 or 3 egg whites depending on how wet the mixture is (it should have the same consistency as porridge). Dust a clean work surface with icing sugar and roll the mixture into a sausage. Cut into squares of about 3 x 3 cm and place on a baking tray in the oven for 5 minutes. Afterwards, put under the grill for another 2 minutes to get the tops golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with icing sugar.


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