Cookbook club combines potluck with book discussion

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This might just be the tastiest book club ever started.

In March, Adult Services Coordinator Nicole Klein began the monthly Books & Bites: Cookbook Club, a combination potluck meal and book club where patrons who love to cook choose and prepare a recipe from that month’s designated cookbook to bring to the club meeting at the Cartersville Public Library.

“Nothing can stimulate a conversation like food,” she said. “Maybe because it brings back so many memories, but we can really have great conversations when we’re talking about food.” 

Cookbook clubs became “very popular in libraries several years ago,” Klein said.

“I hosted a cookbook club at another library a few years ago before coming here to the Bartow County Library System,” she said. “People love food and love to talk about food so to do a book club with cookbooks seemed like a great idea to bring people together.”

The May meeting featuring “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” by Deb Perelman, a popular food blogger, will be Thursday from 6 to 7:15 p.m. in the library classroom at 429 W. Main St.

“I chose this book because it was, most importantly, readily available but also because Deb Perelman has a reputation for crafting simple, approachable recipes with beautiful photographs and narratives,” Klein said. “I would consider her one of the pioneers in food blogging as we recognize it today.”

Patrons who want to participate should pick up a copy of the cookbook from the reference desk, read through it and pick a recipe to make then bring the prepared dish to the potluck and be ready to share their experiences on reading the book and preparing their chosen recipe.

“This book is packed with recipes and includes chapters for breakfast, salads, sandwiches, tarts, pizzas, snacks and drinks, sweets and main dishes, both a chapter for vegetarians and another for carnivores,” Klein said.

For the meeting, she is considering a recipe from the snacks and drinks chapter, like French Onion Toasts on Page 297 or the Tres Leches Rice Pudding on Page 275. 

“I am also intrigued by the Fingerlings Vinaigrette with Sieved Eggs and Pickled Celery on Page 59,” she said. “Whatever I choose, it will be something I can make ahead, or at least mostly make ahead, and can be easily served.”

If some patrons can’t prepare a dish, “we don’t want to discourage them from attending, but they should still be able to contribute,” Klein said.

“A good way to do so is to bring a refreshment, something that can be easily picked up, like sweet tea or lemonade,” she said.

The library provides paper plates and plastic utensils and will have serving utensils on hand if needed. 

At the first gathering in March, participants discussed a cookbook by Ree Drummond, known as The Pioneer Woman on The Food Network, Klein said. 

“The first meeting was great,” she said. “We had several people show up who were engaging and eager to discuss the cookbook. Each person brought a dish (or two), and we had dump cakes, a pizza dish, zucchini rollups, beans and even focaccia, all recipes from ‘The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!’”

The timing of the April meeting — the Thursday before Easter weekend — led to Klein being the only one who could show up to discuss cookbooks by “Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten. 

“I made a vegetable tian with zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes and onions, she said.

The cookbook discussion during the meetings is “only loosely structured,” Klein said.

“Each attendee will talk about their opinions of the book, their experience preparing a recipe, if they enjoyed the outcome and if they would change anything or prepare the dish again,” she said.

There is no limit on how many people can participate, and registration is not needed.

Cookbook titles for the rest of the summer will be “EveryDayCook” by Alton Brown in June, “It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great” by Gwyneth Paltrow in July and “Cravings” by Chrissy Teigen in August.

For questions or information, call the reference desk at 770-382-4203, ext. 138 or email Klein at nicole@bartowlibrary.org.