How to start your very own cookbook club

Frankie Schneckloth/Little Village

Gather your friends to connect in the kitchen.

Traditional book clubs often get a bad rap. While genuine and earnest at the beginning, over time, they have a tendency to devolve and become less about the actual books and more about socializing and enjoying food and drink. Take this not as a suggestion to abolish your on-task book club, but rather an alternative option for those running short on the free time (or interest) it takes to finish the assigned reading.

Enter: Cookbook club.

For this book club, you’ll swap the reading list of novellas, nonfiction and poetry for the slate of delicious and inspiring cookbooks that have been calling your name, and flex your culinary skills instead. Select a cookbook and a monthly date, and members each cook a recipe or two to bring to the monthly meeting. It’s a great way to slow down and connect with people; sharing a meal without the inherent timetable and distractions of dining out.

Here are some pointers to get you started:

Choose your group

Now is not the time to invite Tom, Dick and Harry; create a select group of members for your club. It could be your five closest friends, a few couples you often dine out with or a handful of interesting folks you’ve been meaning to get to know better. Just be sure your list is comprised of people who enjoy being in the kitchen, as there’s no sense in forcing someone who hates to cook to slave over a complicated step-by-step. Six people seems to be a perfect number and many recipes are developed with 4-6 people in mind. Sure, you could double measurements to ensure the dish feeds more mouths, but better to save the math for your second stab at the recipe.

Glen Lowry

Rotate hosting

While the prep and cooking duties are divvied up naturally, it’s nice to rotate hosting duties every meeting so no one is always stuck with a bunch of dishes or tasked with cleaning their house in addition to cooking. The host can suggest the cookbook and select and share recipes. Typically, the host lays claim to a main dish to anchor the meal and the remaining recipes are selected first come, first serve.

Set a tone

When picking your cookbooks, be adventurous and choose books from a variety of different regions and cultures. Or, use it as an opportunity to hone in on the classics. You can certainly purchase a cookbook just for the club, but don’t make it a requirement. When it comes to purchasing, it can be nice to wait until after you’ve sampled some of the recipes, as it’s a great way to decide if the book is something you want to cook from again. Browsing the stacks at your local library is also an amazing way to dig up something older or more niche that you wouldn’t find at a bookstore.

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