The holidays are here, and for many of us, that means gathering with family and friends to enjoy each other's company and, of course, FOOD. As someone who grew up hanging around my mother’s feet in the kitchen, then scorning it to play with my cousins and friends as I grew older, I now have found myself drifting back into the kitchen and the comfort it brings.
One of the ways that you can keep the joy of gathering all year long is to grab a few of your favorite people and start your own cookbook club! If you, like me, find that one of your favorite parts of any book club is the snacks, along with the chatter that isn’t related to the book, a cookbook club could be exactly what you’re looking for!
Glad you asked! The general idea is simple. Gather and eat food all made from the same cookbook, hence the book clubby aspect. How you proceed beyond that can be really up to your group. Some prefer a potluck model, where everyone cooks a dish in advance and brings enough for people to taste and (hopefully) bring home leftovers for their families. You can also gather as a group to make a few items from a single cookbook into a cohesive meal for everyone to share, enjoying each other’s company while everyone cooks.
👩🏾🍳 While it’s great to have a whole bunch of people in a traditional book club, try keeping your cookbook club in the single digits, especially if you’ll be doing the cooking together, unless you have giant spaces that can handle “too many cooks in the kitchen.” It’s easier to have larger groups if you’re doing the potluck model.
🧊 Be chill. Sometimes when we’re using a technique, things don’t go as planned. Heck, sometimes even boiling water can be unpredictable, so be relaxed and ready to go with the flow.
💬 Know in advance if you want to talk about just the recipes or also discuss more about the introductory materials. As someone who reads cookbooks for fun, I’ll gladly jabber on about any and all comments made by the author, but if you’re only there to cook, go for it!
💵 In advance, try to figure out any financial obligations. If it’s a potluck, it’s pretty simple to have everyone do their own thing, but if you’re gathering at one home, figure out (before you get there!) how you want to split the costs. Maybe everyone brings a few ingredients. Maybe the rotating hosts buys all and you split equally, or the rotating host is always the one to pay. Know this before you finish your meal and things get weird.
🍲 Don’t be afraid to try new things - that’s the whole point - and hopefully it can open your eyes (and stomachs) to new cultures and foods that you’ve never experienced.
Here are some great books available on the Libby app to get you started on your cookbook club journey:
Every Season is Soup Season by Shelly Westerhausen Worcel and Wyatt Worcel
Okay, if you want to start small, this is really the best way to do it. Plus, soup is awesome. Here, you can learn a whole bunch of soups for every season, and have a tasty soup bar with friends! From warm, comforting soups to bright, chilled soups, everyone can dip their spoons into something that will hit the spot. They’re easy to transport and share and if you have too much—soup freezes! What can I say, I love soup!
Baking Yesteryear by B. Dylan Hollis
This is another one that would benefit from the potluck model, unless you want to spend a lot of time together, as some of these bakes are long! Hollis is a friendly face that many of us know from social media and YouTube, and he takes us all on a journey through the past with some of the 20th century’s best and let’s say...most interesting baked treats of that time. This would be a super fun gathering; to see who can make either the wackiest or tastiest items!
The Wok by J. Kenji López-Alt
Nobody does their homework around food like López-Alt so if you and your club follows his directions, you’re guaranteed a great meal. The whole point of wok cooking is that it’s fast, so you can have yourself a great meal over the course of a book club meeting with ease. This is also a great way to try new cooking techniques that you might not have used before, and with your book club friends by your side, you can feel confident that you’ll have a great time.
Cooking from the Spirit by Tabitha Brown
If you want to make sure that you can include as many people as possible in your book club, try looking to a vegan cookbook! Brown’s cookbook will make you both smile and drool with her upbeat take on life and food and delicious recipes. Her brunch section alone makes me want to gather my friends and sip on a mimosa while we all gather and cook our way through her scrambles and pancakes to get ready to conquer the day. Plus, if anyone’s unfamiliar with vegan cooking, this book is a great introduction to how easy and accessible it can be for everyone.
Dinner in One by Melissa Clark
I’m a sucker for a one-dish meal, and imagine anyone who has to clean up after cooking is, too. So, show up at your friend’s house with your own Dutch oven and get ready to make a whole bunch of tasty food! Clark is a master of simple, tasty meals and this cookbook has something for everyone. It’s broken down by preparation type, so you can know that one or two people will be making sheet pan meals, while someone uses the stove for a pasta dish, and someone else is running an Instant Pot, making for streamlined cooking in a busy kitchen. Plus, she adds ways to make many of the dishes vegetarian or vegan, so no one needs to be left out!
Mi Cocina by Rick Martinez
If your book club goes out for chips and margaritas after your meetings, perhaps you should try to make your own Mexican food with this amazing cookbook. Martinez has traveled throughout Mexico to truly understand what makes Mexican food so diverse and delicious and helps us to redefine what we know it to be. I recommend reading for more than just the recipes in this one, as it also chronicles his journey throughout the country to learn more about Mexican food and culture. There’s a reason that this book won so many awards, and now your cookbook club can experience it together!
Check out all of these titles and more through Libby, and let’s get cooking together!