When I was in high school, probably more than 10 years ago now, my mom and I started attending a book club that my grandma was in – a small group started by her friend. Legend has it it began as a way for said friend to go through all the classics she already owned, but when we joined they were reading a lot of historical fiction – right up my alley, then and now!
Throughout high school and even while away (just over in the next county, barely) at college, I attended the monthly meetings quite often (actually finished the books a bit less often).
Part of the reason for this was that at some point a few years in, the food – in addition to the company and the books – became a major component of our meetings!
We always had something to munch on, but it evolved from a coffee cake or a quiche to a whole brunch buffet. Then – I can’t remember exactly when or which book it was – whoever was hosting featured themed food based on the book and it became a thing that many of us do! (The person who selects the book is responsible for the food that goes with it.)
This has served the purpose of being part of the learning experience that goes along with some books – foods specific to the time and setting. Sometimes, we become part of the story – in one case, we read the nonfiction Tattoos on the Heart, and our hostess had treats from Homeboy Foods for us. Other times is serves as a fun way to get creative and makes each meeting more of a party!
Earlier this year, I hosted a meeting discussing The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I had to get a bit creative with my spread, but there was one unique recipe spelled out right in the book! The main character, Esther, fondly looks back on growing up eating avocados filled with a sauce made of equal parts French dressing and grape jelly.
To make the sauce, I simply put 1 cup of grape jelly in a sauce pan, melted it down a bit, then added 1 cup of the dressing and stirred until it became a smooth sauce. With the halved avocados, we also put out a crab salad (another nod to the novel), giving our guests the option to fill them with either.
For those who aren’t familiar with the book, it features a well-known analogy/imagery of a fig tree (recently quoted on the Netflix series “Master of None”). I knew I had to include figs somehow – so with help from my mom I decided to make these yummy bites by stuffing them with goat cheese and drizzling them with this rich raspberry balsamic I already had in the kitchen.
To round out the options we included some cute store-bought petit fours that we imagined might be like something served at one of of the fancy events in NYC that Esther attended. Also an apple pie, just because.
At our next meeting, we will be discussing Liane Moriarty’s recent release Truly Madly Guilty, which takes place in Australia and revolves around a barbecue hosted by a man of a Slovenian background – can’t wait to try the new (to me) dishes described in it, and of course document it for you all!