Friday, April 12, 2013

Books + food + friends = a delectable book group

I'm not normally a fan of online book clubs. I mean, what's the point? Book clubs should be events where friends get together to eat and chat, sometimes even about books. Move that online and you lose everything except the part about the books, and if I want to spend my alone-time reading (which I do) electronically (which I don't), why not just fire up the Kindle and read another book?

And then Cook the Books ("a bimonthly foodie book club marrying the pleasures of reading and cooking") emailed David and me to see if we'd judge one of their contests.

My first reaction: flee. I already have a stack of books in my office that I have to read for another contest, and the last thing I wanted was another accusatory stack. But I read on.

Cook the Books, it turns out, was asking us only to read blog posts about a book--The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri--and choose the post we liked best. We had already read the book, which I'd reviewed on this blog (here). That's why they came to us, though their first choice would have been Signor Camilleri himself. Maybe the fact that he's 87 years old and a heavy smoker made them think he wouldn't have time.

After we found out more about Cook the Books, we were happy to accept. It's different from most online groups. Participants don't just read and comment; they write whole blog posts. And they don't just write, they actually invent recipes and cook them. And even though the four hosts live in Hawaii, California, Indiana, and New York, two of the other participants got together in real time and spent an afternoon cooking up their entry. This was beginning to sound like a real book club, but tastier. How could we resist?

Here's how Cook the Books works (their complete guidelines are here).

Every couple of months, the website's hosts choose a book that has something to do with food. (For a not-quite-up-to-date list of previous selections, a main course of fiction with the occasional nonfiction contorno, click here.) They announce their selection on their website and encourage other people to join them.

After they and their readers have read the book, they use it as inspiration for cooking something--maybe a recipe that is actually in the book, maybe one they create based on a description from the book, or maybe one that just seems to go along with the book's spirit.

Then each participant--the hosts and anyone else who joins them--blogs about the book and the food.

The judge then reads the blogs and chooses one. "You can use any criteria you like," one of the hosts told us.

Now that sounded like our kind of assignment! If you'd like to know how it turned out, you can read our comments here. Or you can just look at this picture of the scrumptious soup we couldn't wait to make after we'd read the recipe, and try to imagine how we made it.

Bibliophilic foodies, take this idea and run with it. If you like to read and cook, I'm sure the Cook the Books club will be happy to have you join them. Better yet, start a local chapter, cook your own recipes (alone or together), meet in somebody's kitchen, and share the bounty! (If you live near me, get in touch...)

1 comment:

Simona said...

Thanks for sharing with us the story of your "conversion." It's good to find out that we pleasantly surprised you. I am glad to read you had fun judging our entries.