A review of The Book Club Cook Book by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

Reviewed by Sheri Harper

The Book Club Cook Book
by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
ISBN: 978-1-58542-924-0

Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, creators of www.bookclubcookbook.com have come up with an innovative way to enjoy two of my favorite activities—reading books and sampling tasty new recipes. The “Book Club Cook Book” is a fascinating read. The recipes presented are offered up by authors or found in their books or share a connection.

Before each recipe, a brief biography of the featured author is provided. Then the recipes are explained, along with the group in the book club that selected and why they thought the recipe was complimentary to reading the book.

So rather than try to explain The Book Club Cook Book, I thought I’d pick a sample meal menu with a great deal of variation and provide some trivia from the biography.

For drinks, consider “Banana-Pineapple Smoothie,” a recipe that Owen Meany’s grandmother created in John Irving’s book after the young man’s lip was split by his girlfriend Hester when he decided to go to Vietnam during the war. This recipe was selected by Cheryl Haze’s Philadelphia Book Club while delving into the religious significance behind the book.

An alternate, “Kir Royale Cocktail,” selected by the Cover to Cover Girls Book Club in Lake County Florida may be preferred by those seeking an alcoholic taste treat. Made from a French Liqueur known as Cassis made from black current berries and champagne, will help readers appreciate the experience heroine Julia has with her husband at their favorite restaurant in France, Thoumieux.

For dinner rolls, “Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Jalapeno Avocado Salsa,” a Caribbean theme selection based on character Janie Crawford’s black-eyed peas in the story “Their Eyes were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. Picked by the Denver Read and Feed members Frank Blaha and his wife Barb Warden because the book fascinated their group and provided an introduction to the Harlem Renaissance. With such a dish, one could skip the salad, by why would one, with “Mango, Jicama, and Corn Salad” on offer?

Tami Ziel, a member of the East County Mother’s Club of Contra Costa County California says members scooped up Mango, Jicama and Corn Salad with chips like salsa in their South American theme meal picked to augment their reading of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “Love in the Time of Cholera”.

For soup: “Oyster Brie Soup” is a selection offered up by “Water for Elephans” author Sara Gruen, in honor of her favorite meal at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, and because it is served in one of her scenes by chefs working aboard the train chartered by the circus.

For an appetizer, consider “Spicy Pork with Orange Hoisin Sauce in Won Ton Cups” picked by Ellen Masterson and her Westborough, Massachusetts book club when they read “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” by Dai Sijie because she felt that a Chinese food theme would augment their enjoyment of the book.

For light pasta course: “Rosemary Spaghetti” offered up because of rosemary’s association with the Virgin Mary and the rose’s symbol in the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown can provide inspiring insights. Juli Rosenbaum used Rosemary Spaghetti as one of the courses when the Black Madonna Book Group of Waco, Texas met to discuss The Da Vinci Code. Luckily for the less athletic, no mention of needing to run from villains was made.

For a heavier meat course, “Britta’s Sabzi Challow (Spinach and Rice) with Lamb” was researched and developed by Britta Pulliam, owner of Britta’s Café in Irvine, California (home to Britta’s Book Club) to match the traditional Afghani meal served in the Kite Flyer by Khaled Hosseini.

Readers may think they will waddle away from the table after the menu offered up so far, but they will never skip dessert if they can have “Spiced Plum Kolaches.” This dessert is a taste treat mentioned in “My Antonia” by Willa Cather. Although such a menu as I offered may not seem a well-coordinate menu based on a single culture it does explain the rich variety of cultures, food treats, and literary offerings pulled together by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. It offer many book clubs an appealing way to enhance their reading experience with foods from around the world. It also provides a challenge to readers to dig into the rich literary experience of reading from the classics and about the world.

About the reviewer: Sheri Fresonke Harper is a poet and writer. She’s been published in many small journals and is working on her second science fiction novel. See www.sfharper.com