Ever heard of a Cookbook Club? It’s basically a book club and a dinner party rolled into one. It makes for a fun, stress free way to collaboratively entertain. Just pick a cookbook, and each guest prepares a recipe from it to share. Since recipes are all from the same cookbook, they tend to fit a general theme and blend nicely together. With everyone trying unfamiliar recipes, you may find you feel a bit more adventurous. Everyone is trying to make something they’ve not made before. If you fail at it, you have the feeling – well, we’re all in this together!
Last spring was our first Cookbook Club dinner party and we have continued to read, cook, and eat together every few months ever since. These get togethers are the ultimate foodie potluck dinner. They are decidedly informal with a mix-match of plates, napkins, and platters. The conversation has a natural flow as we share our experience with the cookbook. We leave full, happy, and inspired to cook.
Here are some tips if you’d like to start your own Cookbook Club…….. Invite everyone interested in cooking to Cookbook Club, not just your friends who are amateur chefs. We invite about 35 people and usually our gatherings have 15-20. Certainly you could have a smaller group, but you want to have enough people to have a nice variety of dishes.
When picking your cookbook, consider the time of year. We did Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi this past spring when vegetable were at their peak. And this month, in the midst of an unseasonably cold winter, we switched to comfort food with Hugh Acheson’s great new cookbook The Chef and the Slowcooker. And because there were few dessert options, we offered the option of also bringing a pie. This was a great idea btw.
Consider using a shared Google document for a meal sign-up sheet so that two people don’t end up making the same thing and so the offerings are well-balanced.
Label dishes with what they are and who made them. If you have anyone in your group with food allergies, use this label to help everyone know what’s in the dishes.
It may seem daunting to host 20, but in this case, it’s really not. In a way it’s like crowdsourcing your dinner party. Everyone takes responsibility for bringing the dishes. Everyone takes their serving dishes home to wash. It’s actually one of the easiest dinner party I’ve hosted and with possibly the best food. Our group rotates hosting, and that works well. No one person should get all the fun.
Be sure to let everyone knows to still come if you don’t have time to cook. Everyone understands. Just bring some wine!
The biggest concern most people have is how to seat that many people. But it’s really not a big deal. We set up card table and patio tables and sit on sofas and chair arms and even the floor. Lack of seating won’t keep people from having a good time.
Hope this inspires you! I want to thank our amazing Cookbook Club coordinator, Elizabeth Buerger. She’s the consummate chef and host and being around her is always inspiring. This Cookbook Club has been such a fun way to get to know these now dear friends better. Wishing the same for you!