About a year and a half ago, my now-friend Katy started a cookbook club in Seattle. The idea was to pick a cookbook and invite everyone to choose a recipe to cook from it for a potluck. I love this particular concept, because my first forays into cooking were through reading cookbooks. I latched onto the stories and memories a cookbook author shares even before attempting many recipes, and I’ve always felt the most safe and content curled up with a cookbook and a mug of something warm.
I’d read of food bloggers and other general “food people” holding these types of cookbook gatherings, but never felt myself “foodie” enough for them, and never seemed to have the glut of foodie friends necessary to pull one off. Katy started her club as a Meetup, and as soon as I saw the announcement, I couldn’t join fast enough.
Our first meetup was held in Katy’s candlelit Capitol Hill apartment in mid November. It was loud and joyous. We cooked from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and blog; I remember I made a wild mushroom tart whose crust wasn’t quite right, but I patched it together and brought it anyway and everyone told me kindly how beautiful it was. We showed up eagerly prepared to eat and to be generous with one another. Cookbook club is always a great reminder to me of how easy and worthwhile it is to be generous with others, and how generosity has such power to help us all bloom.
I’ve attended countless cookbook clubs since then, at houses and apartments and travel hostels and parks. I’ve cooked Persian omelettes, Indonesian potato salad, and Chinese hot and sour tofu, and baked Mexican pumpkin seed cookies. I’ve seen people soften in the presence of shared food and community. It’s why I desperately wanted to bring that spirit back to Minneapolis with me and start a cookbook club in the Twin Cities.
As I’ve visited Seattle over the past six months, I’ve signed up for cookbook clubs whenever I’ve had the opportunity. During my current visit, Arlie and I hosted a potluck at his house. We cooked from V Street: 100 Globe-Hopping Plates on the
cutting Edge of Vegetable Cooking. It was an experiment for me, because it was the first cookbook I’d chosen that was entirely vegan.We had about 15 guests, and the food was sensational.
We ate spicy noodles with shiitake mushrooms, silky grilled eggplant, potato pakora with a puckery-sweet tamarind sauce. And two kinds of ice cream: sweet potato and halva.
Throughout the evening, I managed to ask most people if they were vegan “in real life”, and all but one said no, but that the food was amazing, and a few people said this with surprise. The one vegan I did speak with also seemed overjoyed to be able to eat every single thing available.
Food aside, though, what I love about these gatherings is the diversity. Because the meetup is so big now, over one thousand members, I meet new people at every one. I’ve met folks from India, Japan, South America, and Indonesia. I love my friends, and appreciate the ones who like to spend time cooking and eating with me, but I also cherish the perspective brought by sharing meals with people I don’t know, and may, in fact, never see again. Those interactions can be simple and sweet or powerfully memorable. We start with the food in common, and then realize how much life we have in common, too, and the differences help us grow.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I was not successful in getting Meetup to work for me, so I created a Facebook group for the makings of a cookbook club in the Twin Cities. If you’re in the Twin Cities, or visit the Twin Cities with any regularity and want to be a part of it, please join. I want to make a vibrant, generous community here too, and I’d love to have your help.
Edited to Add: This is my first time trying to upload images on this blog, and, as you can see, I leave a lot to be desired. Next time, I’ll include descriptions with the file name, since my screenreader isn’t reading them. Sorry to any blindies reading this, image descriptions with their corresponding file names are below:
Pakoras: Close-up of pakoras and sauce, with slices of green onion on top of the pakoras. Photo by Kwan Mariam, description by Arlie
Many Plates: Lots of plates, including eggplant, pakoras, cucumber and onion salad Cauliflower, a bowl of harissa, papadums with dal, and pizza. Photo by Kayla, description by Arlie
Eggplant: Close-up of eggplant, with bottles of wine behind it and the pizza sneaking into the picture. Photo by Kwan Mariam, description by Arlie