Let’s say you’re in a book club. Let’s say that the members of your book club take turns playing the host. And let’s say that you’d like the meeting at your place to be the best one ever.
If you read my article on book club cocktails, you already have the beverage selections for your bookish evening covered. But what about the food? You don’t want to serve frozen chicken tenders and a lifeless crudité. So what’s a host or hostess to do? Order pizza? Fix a plate of sandwiches and dump a bag of potato chips in a bowl? Nah. You can do better than that.
Start by visualizing memorable feast scenes as depicted in Jane Austen or Harry Potter novels. Or think of the famed feast in A Christmas Carol. Food is a practically a character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Maurice Sendack’s The Night Kitchen, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Think of all mouth-watering treats presented in Chocolat or Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?
Now that you’re envisioning a table loaded with sumptuous fare, you might have to come back to earth. It’s unlikely you’ll be roasting a duck and making individual servings of raspberry soufflé for your book club, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wow them. Here are a few ideas on how to do that:
Take a culinary journey. If your book pick is set in another country or features a character with an international backstory, then you have an opportunity to let another culture shine using food. If your club read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, for example, you could serve an Irish stew with hunks of Irish soda bread. Reading Outlander? Better skip the haggis and go straight for the shortbread. Maybe your group read Girls Burn Brighter and you want to serve some Indian dishes, but you’re daunted by the prospect of cooking them. Don’t worry. You can find easy recipes for Tikka Masala or Basmati rice with dried fruit and almonds online.
If you’re rather not tackle foods from other cultures, stick to what you know. But give your traditional dishes a book club twist. To do that, you could try to highlight the seasonal feel of your book club pick. My book club recently read Fredrik Backman’s Beartown, and I remember how much the wintry setting influenced my experience. There were countless references to ice, snow, cold, damp, chilled, and wet. For a book like this, or any other book set in winter, you could serve snowball cake or have a crockpot filled with white hot chocolate. Is your book club pick set in autumn? Whip up some chicken salad and serve it on apple slices or serve baked brie with figs.
Let’s say certain foods get attention in your book club pick. In Wild by Cheryl Strayed, hikers scavenge for food. To complement wild foods, you could make stuffed mushrooms or a mixed berry pie. Another natural food featured in The Secret Life of Bees is honey. You could make a dozen dishes with this one ingredient like Honey Chicken Kebabs, Honey Cornbread, or Honey Cake with Caramelized Pears.
If you’d rather just focus on celebrating books, then go for a book-shaped cake or book-shaped cookies. There are plenty of online recipes for both of these.
No matter what you decide to make, your friends will be thrilled to see how you used a little culinary magic to enhance your time together. Because that’s what book club is really about: spending quality time with our friends (And eating. And drinking. Oh, yeah. And discussing books).
In New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams’ intriguing new Secret, Book, and Scone Society novel, Nora Pennington and her fiction loving friends in small-town Miracle Springs, North Carolina, encounter a young woman desperately in need of a new beginning. . .
Nora Pennington, owner of Miracle Books, believes that a well-chosen novel can bring healing and hope. But she and the other members of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society know that sometimes, practical help is needed too. Such is the case with the reed-thin girl hiding in the fiction section of Nora’s store, wearing a hospital ID and a patchwork of faded bruises. She calls herself Abilene, and though Nora and her friends offer work, shelter, and a supportive ear, their guest isn’t ready to divulge her secrets. But when a customer is found dead in an assumed suicide, Nora uncovers a connection that points to Abilene as either a suspect—or another target.
Summer’s end has brought other new arrivals to Miracle Springs too. Entrepreneur Griffin Kingsley opens Virtual Genie, a cyber business that unloads people’s unwanted goods for cash. With the town in an economic slump and folks hurting for money, Virtual Genie and its owner are both instantly popular. A patient listener, Griffin dispenses candy to children and strong coffee to adults, and seems like a bona fide gentleman. But Nora’s not inclined to judge a book by its cover. And when a second death hits town, Nora and her intrepid friends must help the new, greenhorn sheriff discern fact from fiction—and stop a killer intent on bringing another victim’s story to a close . . .