I belong to a pretty fabulous book club, filled with smart and interesting women. All of us have busy lives- many of which require considerable reading for our work- reading that as a rule is solitary, and doesn’t stretch us outside of a “brain comfort zone.” And so every other month, we meet to discuss a book selection. There are no rules about the types of books we choose- we all just have to agree that we would like to read it. Recently, we began designing our evenings to stimulates both our minds and our palates. These book discussion/food tastings have proven to be quite harmonious. Tasting food our characters or subjects might have tasted has helped the books come to life in an even more visceral way. Plus, we all love to eat- so any excuse will do.
“Tasting” is just a fancy name for the classic “potluck.” tasting is a less expensive — and potentially more exciting — way to entertain. It is easy to divide up courses/costs so that no one person is burdened with the responsibility.
How it Works
- Start with your chosen book and then choose foods thematically linked to that book (this could be fluid: southern cuisine to accompany a Flannery O’Connor book- or specific: recreating the recipes printed in Like Water for Chocolate).
- Choose variations of the “same” item to taste subtle differences among them (ie three different types of oysters, or different types of cheese,
- Gather and print a list of adjectives used to describe taste and texture to help spark conversation (“crisp,”briny” “sweet”). Very often, you can gather these adjectives from manufacturer websites or simply by Googling your query (“words used to describe chocolate”)
- At each course, guests take turns describing what they taste – and together enjoy discussions comparing and contrasting what they consume.
This is how my friends and I tasted The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo Each course lent itself to lively discussions of taste, which only made of book discussion more engaging.
(available at Fromage Fine Foods and Coffee (Old Saybrook, CT); The Cheese Shop of Centerbrook (Centerbrook, CT); Atlantic Seafood Market (Old Saybrook, CT); and The Cooking Company (Haddam and Killingworth, CT)
and Les Trois Petits Cochons Pâté Paysan served on toast with tiny slices of cornichons.
And finally, the dessert- and assortment of Chocolove Chocolate bars in the following percentages: