About a year ago, Judy Gelman contacted me about contributing to her revised The Book Club Cookbook. We exchanged a few emails, and when she learned my book club had read – and lovedlovedloved – South of Broad, we were set. When it’s my chance to host, it’s a good bet that we will read something Southern, and Pat Conroy is my favorite author. Coincidently, I had recently read The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes and Stories of My Life for the monthly Kitchen Conservatory book club, so I thought it would be fun to cook from that as well. While my revised Pat Conroy gumbo recipe did not make it into the Judy’s book, she did include a nice quote about my book club, affectionately named Book Club Girls Club.
My book club has been together for over ten years, a group I started with some moms from Connor’s Montessori preschool, a neighbor, and a friend Connor introduced us to after starting up a conversation with her and her husband at a local Mexican restaurant (he was about seven at the time). We started out as a book club but have evolved into much more, thus, the “girls club” addition. We’ve been through a lot together, watching our kids grow up, health and job successes and challenges, and through it all, a lot of great food moments (and more than a few bottles of vino too). We allow our husbands to join us for a multi-course dinner around Christmas, which has always been a fun evening of fine dining.
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I would highly recommend Judy’s book, and more than just for recipes. Many of personal favorites are highlighted, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Kite Runner, and The Red Tent. It’s a terrific reference for choosing books with an extensive list, from newer fiction (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, Freedom ), to classics (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which was the first book the BCGC read, Anna Karenina, The Great Gatsby), and interesting titles that even the most well-read may not be familiar with – atleast me (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Mama Day). And then there are the recipes – fabulous. They wonderfully coordinate food with the theme of the book, and sometimes that means restaurant dining (one of our members would highly recommend this approach – NOT!). The “Novel Thoughts” sections present specific thoughts on the book from featured book clubs, which run the gamut of life: women/moms like my book club, those that read a single author or only the classics or mysteries, men only (really, men read other than on vacation?), some clubs together for decades, but almost all have one thing in common: an escape from our real lives, and overall – just fun. Like ours, food is likely a powerful connector, not just of books but relationships and life.