I was invited to join a book club about two years ago by an acquaintance. It’s a nice, very varied group of about ten women. Well, we recently lost two whose schedules didn’t allow them to participate. When we started each woman hosted the group at home in no sequence. It as kind of fun as different members took the unspoken challenge to cook to coordinate with the book.
When we read A Gentleman In Moscow, our hostess made an amazing Russian-style spread. She outdid herself for this and another book. For the Grass Dancer, another member cooked up a variety of Native American foods reflecting the diversity within the Native American community. I was absent for the Pachinko meeting – don’t know if it was a Koreanesque dinner. Another Asian selection, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki by Haruki Murakami, but no Japanese dinner.
I’ve hosted three meetings at our home. The first was for the book The Good Spy, by Kai Bird, a friend of my husband’s from Carleton College. Because of the Middle Eastern content of the book, I made a Middle Eastern appetizer menu including a trio of spreads – hummus, an eggplant spread, muhammara (sun-dried tomato and red pepper spread) – kofta (meatballs), and some vegetarian patty. The table was completed with olives and pistachios. The wonderful green table cloth in the picture was brought to me by my Greek friend Eurydice from Damascus, many years ago.
I’m missing the second meeting which adjourned at the house … hmmm what was the book and the food? I remember I made leg of lamb (it might have been National Leg of Lamb Day) and the ladies all commented that they never cook lamb. The dessert I made my amazing chocolate pate for dessert. The chocoholic in the group was in hog heaven. The chocolate pate recipe is from a cookbook published by America’s Dairy Farmers and Pillsbury (1998). It’s from the “romantic” Rabbit Hill Inn at Lower Waterford, Vermont (https://www.rabbithillinn.com/). It’s really easy and so delicious.
The next book hosted at our home was Inheritance. This memoir is written by Dani Shapiro traces how she seeks and finds her biological father. I decided to prepare a meal based on my own inheritance. I’ve already mentioned that on my Mom’s side I am Greek-Jewish. We grew up with Greek food at home, but no moussaka – it’s not kosher; she grew up in a kosher home in NYC. For the book club I made another leg of lamb, salad, and the eggplant and cheese dish that we’ve always thought was the kosher alternative to moussaka.
I tried a new recipe for dessert – an orange almond cake is similar to Claudia Roden’s Tarta de Santiago (St. James Cake). According to Roden this cake is found in all the pastry shops in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia and enjoyed by the pilgrims there. It’s possible that the Jews of Galicia had also made this moist and rich cake in the twelfth and thirteenth century. It, too, was a hit. I’ve invested in almond flour (you can find it sometimes at Aldi and I store it in the freezer) just for this cake!
The club is now starting to meet at local restaurants. Last month (Saving Sophia) we went to Balan’s on Lincoln Rd (Miami Beach). Right now, their Monday special is a burger and beer for $10. I brought half home. I thought it would be lunch the next day, but Danny enjoyed it. Next Tuesday night we’ll go to Santorini by Georgio, a local Greek place, during their Happy Hour. Our book is Shadow of the Wind, set in Barcelona. Georgio and Katrina love their customers and often treat them to their marvelous baklava and bougatsa (or galataboreko).
Honestly, I enjoyed and prefer the Creativity of the book club members as the cooked to complement the reading.