The Book Club Cookbook:
Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club's Favorite Books and Authors
by Judy Gelman, Vicki Levy Krupp
While many of us enjoy "reading" cookbooks, checking through recipes and making notes of new discoveries, this cookbook provides a totally different type of reading experience. Authors Gelman and Krupp, both members of several book clubs, decided that instead of organizing a cookbook around the foods and recipes mentioned in particular novels, memoirs, or non-fiction (which has been done before), that they would start instead by choosing the one hundred favorite books of book clubs from around the country. The list they developed includes the classics, such as Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence; current affairs, such as Reading Lolita in Tehran; contemporary fiction, such as Empire Falls; historical fiction, such as Ahab's Wife; history, such as No Ordinary Time; and memoirs, such as Wild Swans.
Having chosen the one hundred books first, the authors then checked to see if foods were featured in the book, and if so, they looked for the best recipes they could find for each of these foods. If food did not play an important role in the book, they contacted the book clubs to see what they might have served in conjunction with their discussions of these books, sometimes tapping into favorite family recipes of club members and sometimes seeking recipes from specialty restaurants. On occasion, they even contacted the authors of the books themselves. In every case, they found recipes, some from well known sources, that compliment the books and their discussions.
Each of the one hundred books is summarized at the beginning of the section and accompanied not only by one or more recipes but also with a profile of a participating book club, noting the activities each club sponsored in conjunction with the book, and describing what makes each club unique. The recipes are as varied as the countries of origin of the books and fall into categories ranging from appetizers to desserts and beverages. Featured recipes include Artichoke-Jalapeno Spread on Baguettes with Tomato Bruschetta Topping, Shrimp Flautas, Biryani, Spiced Plum Kolaches, Hmong Eggrolls, and a to-die-for dessert called Death by Chocolate. The only weakness I have found is with the index, which contains the standard breakdown into appetizers, desserts, etc., but simply lists the page numbers where a reader can find examples of these categories, and does not list the names of the recipes themselves, an omission that is time-consuming for the cook who wants to use this as a regular cookbook. Mary Whipple
Reviewer: Mary Whipple (New England), Amazon.com