Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Club Meeting: A Homemade Life

Our summer book club meetings typically consist of a light, fun read, a glass or two of wine, and a pot luck dinner. This year, I suggested a new twist on the long-standing tradition. Wouldn't it be fun if we all tried a recipe from the same book? Perhaps a cookbook, or maybe a foodie memoir? A little research lead us to the perfect choice - A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (author of Orangette blog).

A Homemade Life is filled with stories from Molly's life, each revolving around a specific food and ending with the recipe. The three to six page anecdotes can be read it short bites over several weeks, or devoured in a sitting or two. I loved the book by the second page:
"When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be." (page 2)
It was a warm August evening when eight of us gathered on my patio. As it turned out, everyone loved the book as much as I did. We especially liked Molly's open, honest style. The discussion focused mainly on retellings of our own "food memories" and experiences with our selected recipes. One quirky observation - it seemed that several of the recipes required more baking time than suggested.

Our meal included:
  • sliced spring salad with feta and avocado
  • Burg's potato salad
  • Doron's meatballs with pine nuts, cilantro, and golden raisins
  • garden fresh green beans with Molly's vinaigrette dressing
  • roasted eggplant ratatouille
  • bouchons au thon
  • banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger
  • chocolate cupcakes with bittersweet glaze
The recipes were sometimes chosen based on a quote from the preceding vignette:
" can tell a lot about someone by their potato salad. I like to think of it as the Rorschach test of foods." (page 11)

"Those nightly glasses of milk didn't create much in the way of happy memories, but they did do one thing. They taught me that anything, anything, can be made better with chocolate. It's a lesson that has served me well." (page 42)
Doron's meatballs with pine nuts, cilantro, and golden raisins was my contribution. I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients, but thought the family might not appreciate it. My book club friends were the perfect guinea pigs, and the turkey meatballs were a huge success! We made them again and Margaret posted the recipe (and a photo) at Lakeside Kitchen.

A new book club tradition has been born! We're already considering next summer's foodie selection. Any suggestions?

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.


  1. Glad to hear that your book club meeting was a success! This sounds like it was so much fun! I have A Homemade Life on my wish list but my library only has the audio version of it.

  2. What fun. I am in love with that book just from your quotations and descriptions. I am so thankful I have it right here in my stack!

    Have you followed the Cook the Books Club blog? You might get some ideas from them:

  3. I love your creative way of "reviewing" this book via the quotes and recipes. Great idea for a book club meeting. I'm slowly savoring my way through this book. I agree that this book hooked me from the beginning. The quote you used from page 2 is also so true.

  4. What a fun post to read and I so wish I lived next door to you so I could join your cool book club and experience all the wonderful food!!
    This was a top 10 book for me last year.

  5. Vasilly - The meeting was definitely a success. I'll be curious to see what you think of the audio. The recipe lists the ingredients, but the directions contain a lot of Molly's commentary... it just might work.

    Beth F - You'll have to move this one closer to the top of the pile! I hadn't seen Cook the Books Club blog - thanks so much for the link!

    Margot - Several members said they were hooked by the end of the intro, too. Glad you're enjoying this - be sure and let us know if you try any of the recipes.

    Staci - I'd love it if you lived next door, and I know the rest of the book club would, too! Maybe you could just drop by for a meeting some time ;-)

  6. I love that your bookclub menu featured recipes from the book - what a great idea (and tasty too!)

  7. I saw this book at the store the other and almost picked it up - but then I realized I probably wouldn't get it read until 2020 :)

    The book club sounds like such fun - and this new tradition will certainly be the highlight of any literary summer.

  8. That is such a good idea for a book club meeting! And I'm glad it worked well..

  9. What a great idea for a book club meeting - you have inspired me!

  10. Booksnyc - Each of us making recipes from the same book was a welcome change for the annual pot luck. Everyone loving the book was an added bonus!

    Molly - We definitely want to make this an annual event! I might not have made time for the book if it hadn't been for the group... now I'm so glad I did. The meatballs were heavenly.

    Iris - I was a little nervous about this and am very happy it turned out so well!

    Hannah - I'm so glad! Be sure to let me know if your group decides to do something similar... will be curious to see the book choice.

  11. This sounds like a great book club selection. Love the cover too!

    Have a great week JoAnn - How is Zelda?

  12. I love the idea of working from the same book. Congratulations on the new tradition. I think I will try to organise something like this soon too. I'm thinking you could work from a themed book, ie Indian or Italian recipes, or from the same chef, or seasons cookbook. The meatballs were there items I would've chosen too - thanks for sharing your experiences.

  13. What a fun book club evening you must have had. I'm going to have to put that one on my wish list.

  14. I don't have any suggestions but that menu sounds spectacular! At my old bookclub we could only have fresh vegetables crudite because of everyone's food issues. I want to be in yours!

  15. What a fantastic idea for a book group! Sounds like a great evening.

  16. My experience with the lemon cake was the same, it needed a bit more time in the oven. And wasn't the Bouchons au thon delicious!

    So glad that everyone had a marvelous time on your patio and really enjoyed a terrific book!

  17. Thank you for a great suggestion! During our book club anniversary month, we pick a book that we can center our potluck food around--Italian, German, Jewish, etc. This would be a fun change.

  18. I think your idea was brilliant and fun! What a great way to change things up a bit for your book club meeting!

    Your menu sounds yummy to me. Glad the meatballs went over well.

    ~ Amy

  19. Diane - It was! Zelda is doing great... we will celebrate her 3rd birthday on Thursday.

    Tamara - I love the themed book idea! Today was my daughter's first day of school and she asked for those meatballs for dinner tonight - now I've made them three times.

    Debbie - It's a great book - don't think I've come across a negative review!

    Marie - I'd love it if you were in my book club!! We do have a good time... and discuss the books, too.

    Darlene - I almost made the lemon cake, but we already had a couple of desserts. Funny you needed more baking time, too. The best part of hosting was that I was got to keep the leftover Bouchons au thon!

    Kim - That's a good idea, too. I can think of several great possibilities off the top of my head. Thanks!

    Amy - I'd been wanting to read this book and was trying to think of ways to get the group to choose from my tbr pile... guess it worked :-)

  20. Sounds like a fun book/cook club!

  21. Zetor - It really is... thanks for stopping by!

  22. What a great idea for a gathering. I am definately going to have to try a variation with my family. Now to click on the recipe link. Thanks

  23. Now that sounds like a good time! Love when you are close enough to a group of friends that you can use them for guinea pigs. :) You paint such a picture of your evening that you could write your own story of the reading of another's story!

  24. What a wonderful idea: the combination of a good book and good food. The two fit so well together its a shame we don't pair them together like this more often. I have yet to pick up this particular foodie book yet, but it is on my TBR list. I'm glad that you connected with the book so much and I look forward to reading it myself.

  25. Heather - This was definitely a change from our typical meetings. We're already looking forward to doing it again!

    Frances - I never thought I'd try a new recipe on 'company', but we were all guinea pigs that night!

    Jennifer - I hope you like it as much as we all did. It looks like this book/food combination will become an annual tradition with my group.


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