The new way to entertain, Cookbook Club is no different than a traditional book club; a group of like-minded friends gather, nibble and discuss a chosen book. Except now, it's all about the food.
If there's anything we love more than food, it's books about food. Storytelling with food at its core, a cookbook is a culinary adventure that invites you in to a cook's kitchen, with beautiful photography and delectable words describing ingredients through all the senses.
Philip's love of cookbooks started long before meeting me, and today our collection is a treasure trove filled with passionate cooks, international flavours, and visual storytellers that inspire us.
Now, hands up if you're just like us and have hundreds of cookbooks sitting on your shelf still waiting for you to cook from them. But do you know what's better than cooking from a cookbook? Cooking from a cookbook with friends, and we've got two words for you: Cookbook Club.
What is a Cookbook Club?
A Cookbook Club is no different than a traditional book club; a group of like-minded friends gather, nibble and discuss a chosen book. The only difference is with a Cookbook Club, instead of selecting a novel, you select a cookbook, and instead of eating snacks and drinking wine, everyone brings a cooked dish from the cookbook for an interactive dinner party.
Getting back to community cooking and much like a potluck, a Cookbook Club encourage members to cook a cohesive meal, all from the same book and keeps the conversation guided around experiences cooking from the book. A culinary movement that's nothing new, food websites and publications like Food52, Saveur and The Kitchn all proclaim Cookbook Clubs as the newest way to entertain.
Of course, taking the work out of entertaining (no grocery shopping, menu planning, or hosting), Cookbook Club introduces the collaborative dinner amongst friends and a shared responsibility of cooking costs and cooking preparation.
How to a Host Cookbook Club
1. Pick Your Cookbook Crew: The sweet spot number of guests at a dinner party is around 8 people (or 4 couples in total). This number allows for easy conversation, a diverse number of recipes being selected to fully review the cookbook, and is the perfect number of people to fit into our tiny condo. When the group gets larger than 10, it becomes a party and it's harder to keep focused on the cookbook discussion. Also, that's a lot of dishes and cutlery that'll need to be washed.
2. Set the Rules: In order for a cookbook club to run successfully you have to answer the tough questions. Set a cap at the level of difficulty of the book chosen, decide who is responsible for bringing the booze. Perhaps everyone brings their own, or each person hosting is responsible for providing beverages. Another best practices rule is setting the group up for success by determining the categories of dishes. For example, it's best that the host cooks the main; no transport required and, depending on the dish, access to an oven or stove is just easiest.
3. Decide where to meet: This is critical to ensuring successful future Cookbook Clubs. The reason why it's become the new way to entertain is because it's a shared responsibility and that even means sharing the responsibility of hosting. Agreeing on rotating hosting duties ensures everyone plays an active role in entertaining and is equally responsible for cleanup, providing alcohol and well, hosting.
4. Pick your Books: This is one of the trickiest decisions to be made. Like we mentioned above, granting Cookbook Club book selection to the host is the safest way to ensure everyone is heard and gets to cook from their book of choice, or go based on the popular vote route. Of course, there is an art to selecting the book of the table. Select books that are seasonal and truly allow for diverse recipes and cooking levels.
5. Get Organized: To prevent duplicate recipes being selected, starting a group chat or a Facebook group is a great way to stay organized. It's also another form of conversation and can involve the group in your cooking efforts, any additional recipes you may have cooked or share photos of recipes (because if you didn't take a picture, did you even eat it? Jk.).
Best Books for a Cookbook Club
Now that you know all the fun and delicious reasons why you and your gang should start a Cookbook Club, the next step is selecting your first adventure. Here are a few of our favourite cookbooks to get you started:
Dining In by Alison Roman: Cooking from Alison Roman's cookbook is the next best thing to having her in attendance. Filled with simple yet innovative recipes with standout flavours sure to turn any night in into a special one.
Feast by Lindsay Anderson and Dana Vanveller: Remember when we said cookbooks are storytelling with food at its core? Well we were talking about this book. Like a true Canadian, this book is friendly and passionate, diverse and humble with every page, every story and every recipe.
Cravings by Chrissy Tiegen: Do we even need to tell you why? Ooey, gooey, and indulgently delicious, Chrissy's recipes are comfort food at its finest and the perfect addition to any fall/winter Cookbook Club.
Have you and your friends ever hosted a cookbook club? Tell us in the comments below.
Chef Sous Chef