Saturday, August 29, 2009

Book Review: Cooking Club, by Dina Guillen and Michelle Lowrey

Cooking Club: Great Ideas and Delicious Recipes for Fabulous Get-Togethers
by Dina Guillen and Michelle Lowrey

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Sasquatch Books (May 5, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1570615608
Rating (1 to 5*): *****


Cooking Club: Great Ideas & Delicious Recipes for Fabulous Get-Togethers is three books in one: it’s a how-to/idea book, a cookbook and a getting-to-know-some-great-people book! This book tells you everything you need to know about starting your own cooking club or spicing up your current one.

A cooking club, in a nutshell, is a club that gets together to enjoy good food and good company—food that is cooked either by the host or by the guests. Clubs generally meet periodically, such as once per month, trading off duties so everyone gets a chance to cook and host.

There are many different formats and themes for cooking clubs, and Cooking Club gives you plenty of examples of not only how the authors’ club, The Kitchen Table Cooking Club, works, but how other clubs work across the country. It is also packed full of advice for recruiting members, keeping people interested, and generally having a great time.

In addition to all of the useful information on how to start a cooking club and keep it going, Cooking Club gives 12 monthly theme ideas, each with eight interesting recipes for an evening of fun and delicious food—starting with a cocktail and ending with dessert. While some are fairly traditional, most have The Kitchen Table’s own twists that either make them special or just a little easier or faster to make than the original version.

Each recipe is accompanied by a short, but invariably charming, account of how the recipe found its way into The Kitchen Table’s list of favorites. In addition, each recipe’s introduction explains where to get unusual ingredients, gives warnings about long cooking or prep times and includes tips for success when preparing the dish for cooking club. As someone who is likely to plan to make a recipe without thoroughly reading it first (and then finding out too late that you’re supposed to marinate the meat for three days or something), I appreciated having this important information up front where I was less likely to miss it! Each recipe is cooking club tested and approved, and each is well written and easy to follow. The recipes looked so good that I want to try some of them at home, even if I never join a cooking club.

Each theme includes a list of tips for hosting the party, including ideas for decorating, ambiance and favors for the guests. Even if the reader chooses not to follow the book to the letter, there are so many ideas that it is easy to use them as a launching pad to come up with your own.

Throughout Cooking Club, the reader learns about some fun people, both in The Kitchen Table Cooking Club and in cooking clubs around the country. They are such charming people that you might want to start your own cooking club and invite them over! You also see how they have grown and changed through their adventures in the cooking club. I found it so inspiring that I’m already trying to figure out how I can fit a cooking club into my busy schedule!

Check back over the next few days—I’ll have an interview with the authors of Cooking Club, Dina Guillen and Michelle Lowrey. They will also be making a guest post about food writing!

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