Has the World Gone 'Sopranos' Crazy?

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Sopranos College — Is Carmela Soprano the Blanche DuBois of northern New Jersey? Are Paulie Walnuts and Silvio Dante gangland's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

Professor Maurice Yacowar of the University of Calgary in Alberta is teaching the first college class devoted to The Sopranos. "They really do stand up to the kind of analysis I'm used to giving for a [Harold] Pinter play, or a Tennessee Williams play, or a Hitchcock film, or a Shakespeare play," he tells Reuters. "The text is that rich, the context is that lively."

This film studies class will call on students to view gangster classics like The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney, and Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather before tackling the HBO drama.

Sopranos Cooking — Mafia movies are famous for killing and cooking — and the Soprano family has recipes for both. Tony's friend Artie Bucco is credited with compiling the official Sopranos Family Cookbook (Warner Books) featuring 100 Neapolitan and southern Italian recipes.

But to muscle into the world of gangster cookbooks, Tony's fictional family will have to square off with Henry Hill, the real-life gangster who disappeared into the Federal Witness Protection Program and became the subject of Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas.

Hill's Wiseguy Cookbook (New American Library) offers practical advice for guys "on the run," like substituting pork loin when your jailer won't let you to have veal.

"I love the Sopranos, but, if anything, they underplay food," Hill says. "I used to see bosses who would ruin $2,000 suits because they'd insist on cooking. And those guys don't wear aprons."

The Sopranos Family Cookbook features vignettes with each family member, as well as recipes. "Mama always cooked," Uncle Junior says. "No one died of too much cholesterol or some such crap."

Carmela extols the healing virtues of ziti. Dr. Melfi offers an essay on "Rage, Guilt, Loneliness and Food."

As for Hill, he plans to whip up one of his special "kick-back" antipasto heroes and watch The Sopranos' season premiere.

"I'm thinking that this season, it's time for either Paulie or Ralphie to get whacked," he says. "Both those guys have it coming to them."

And that's about as close as you can get to an expert opinion.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.