7 easy tips for starting an amazing cookbook club

Easy and essentials tips on how to start an amazing cookbook club as the new way we entertain.


I have 12 books stacked and teetering on the windowsill by my desk at the NYC office. The stack is going to fall one of these days, but each time I come back from an editor lunch or author meeting where I’m given a book, I add to it.

That pile stares at me all day, and do you know what it’s saying?

Why aren’t you reading me? I look really interesting. Just look away from the computer and crack open a page. It’ll be fuuun.

These books can put on the peer pressure worse than 14 year old girls. And they’ve made it clear to me: they’re not happy that I’m ignoring them.

Do you have a stack of books pressuring you, too? Or maybe it’s your to-be-read list that’s giving you the side-eye?

Well, I have a solution for you, and I promise, it’s going to be even more fun than sitting at the cool kids’s table in the cafeteria

It’s…a book club!

Yes, not groundbreaking, but here’s the thing: it’s better to have your real friends peer pressuring you to read than a hunk of dead tree. And here’s the other thing: everything you thought you knew about book clubs isn’t true.

You don’t have to meet every month. You don’t have to fake that you read the book because life got away from you. You don’t even have to read beforehand–yes, silent book clubs are a thing.

how to get a cookbook deal

All you have to do is get some of your favorite people together, eat something great, pour some wine, and catch up about what you’re reading, what you’re not reading, what podcasts you’re addicted to, what book-to-screen shows or movies you love, and really, anything that’s going on in your life. Books are our portal into life, and here, they can be our excuse for hanging with the people who make us happy.

So when The Kitchn asked me to share my easy tips on how to start a cookbook club, I was all over it. Because a book club that also helps you finally cook through your cookbooks and eat something really spectacular is a beautiful thing. And almost all of the questions you need to ask before starting a cookbook club apply to starting any kind of book club.

What’s the right amount of people? How often should you meet? How do you choose the book? 

It’s not easy to wrap your mind around the logistics and to start a book club or cookbook club the right way, but let me walk you through the 7 questions you need to answer before starting a book club:

7 Easy Tips on How to Start Your Own Cookbook Club

how to start a cookbook club easy

Do you know what’s better than eating out with your friends? Cooking with your friends. And yet, it’s so easy to fall into a rut of solo weeknight cooking and prepped-ahead dinner parties on weekends. The solution? A cookbook club.

A cookbook club will get you back to the great national pastime of community cooking, and it will help you finally cook from all those cookbooks you’ve been hoarding. It’s also ridiculously fun, and you’ll learn endless tricks from watching how your friends make a recipe.

Your cookbook club can be a potluck, where everybody cooks ahead and then shares the spoils; it can be a day of cooking, where you shop in advance but show up ready to cook and eat as a group; or it can be a prep day, where you cook in bulk together and then send each other home with extra servings for stocking the freezer.

Whatever you choose, you’ll need to decide these seven things before you can get cooking:

1. Pick your cookbook club members.

Yes, you should pick your favorite friends, but also consider how much they like to cook and what they like to cook.

Mentally scroll through your favorite people and ask the following questions: Who is most adventurous? Who’s most knowledgeable? Who loves the same restaurants that I do? Who has dietary restrictions I can live with? Don’t rush this — you can’t have a great cookbook club without people who love food in the same way you do.

Next, decide how many friends to invite. Cooking club experts Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer, authors of From Freezer to Table, recommend capping your club at six people. More than that becomes a literal case of too many cooks in the kitchen.

 

Click here to keep reading this piece on The Kitchn!

 

 

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What I’m Reading This Week

I Started a Dinner Club and It Changed My Life (Lindsay Ostrom of Pinch of Yum): Not sure you want to start a book club or a cookbook club? How about just a dinner club! This piece was so touching and inspired me and my friends to start our own regular dinner club, books optional.

How Much Money You Can Expect to Make From Your First Book Contract (Chad R. Allen): Chad’s the Editorial Director at Baker Books, and here he breaks down exactly how publishers calculate advances and how much money an author can earn from a book. And if you want to read more about advances, here’s my literary agent take on how advances for first-time authors and 6 figure advances work.

12 Books to Fix Your Personal Finances (Emma Nichols for Book Riot): I secretly, oddly love reading personal finance books, and I double down on the recommendation of Your Money or Your Life and up the ante with Money: Mastering the Game.

How to Get More Readers and Sell More Books (Kirsten Oliphant of CreateIf Writing): “Start with the basic platform that succeeds: you need an author website, an email list, and Facebook. Data tells you that these three things WORK. You can branch out to Instagram and Tumblr or wherever you love to hang out, but start with the places that bring you ROI- a return on your investment.”

You Need Fortune Bookies in Your Life (Me editorializing on an idea by the wonderful Heidi Fiedler): Have you seen Heidi’s Fortune Bookies?! They are cute little fabric fortune cookies that you tuck into books and which have a secret message hidden inside. How delighted would you be if you came across one at the bookstore? Heidi also has great resources on her site to teach you how to make your own, but you can also request a free box from her if you want to spread the magic.

fortune bookies heidi fiedler


What We’re Eating This Week

Well, my dinner club doesn’t meet until late October, I’m traveling to NYC and Philly this week, and dinner is dying in a fiery burst of sad.

Monday: But I am home one day this week! So it’s Italian chopped salad based on the one from Otto, because I honestly cannot stop. They will have to pry the salami from my cold, dead hands.

Tuesday: Out to eat with my Yaya, aka Who Can Complain Most About How Cold the AC is at Panera: All-Star Edition. I am so good at this game.

Wednesday: Well, for LUNCH, I’m going to be totally shameless and eat a giant bowl of pasta at the Barilla restaurant near our offices. For dinner: tears.

Thursday: Lunch will be someplace delicious for an editor meeting; dinner will be brimstone and fire.

Friday: Off to Philly, where my sister is 1,000% responsible for feeding us excellently and better BETTER not disappoint. Ahem. #bossylittlesister

Cheers!

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These 6 cookbooks are your ticket to the cheapest vacation ever

The best new international cookbooks for cooks who love to travel!


 

How was your Labor Day weekend?

Jarrett and I spent the long weekend in Chicago, and it was an amazing one: we did The Bean, Lakeshore Drive, Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, a river cruise architectural tour, the Chicago History Museum, and we even had enough time to relax and enjoy time with some family & friends.

best book blog

Our gorgeous view of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan from the top of The University Club.

But is it weird to say that I’m ready for a vacation, even though we just had one?

Usually I love getting back to my own home and routine, and I love feeling productive after a few days off. But there’s something about that August to September transition…

If you’re also daydreaming about a vacation but have to sit tight through September, here’s my little secret: a cookbook staycation!

After all, the best part of getting away is eating like a queen, right?

best cookbooks for cooks who love travel

And there are some pretty great cookbooks out this year that will help you cook straight past that wanderlust and make you feel like you’re right in the thick of dinner at that dream destination. According to my calculations, it’s approximately 785% cheaper and easier to do a cookbook staycation than a real-life, haul-yourself-to-a-plane-train-or-automobile vacation.

So here’s what I would do: Cancel everything on a Saturday or Sunday. Fake sick if you have to. Tell the kids/spouse/dog that it’s Cookbook Staycation Day, and they’re going to be part of it. Then wake up at a luxurious hour, have some coffee, read your cookbook in bed, make your shopping list, then stroll—don’t rush—through the store until you’ve piled up everything you need.

Then come home, find an on-theme Pandora station, put any willing hands to work at prep, and cook, cook, cook. Eat, eat, eat, exhale happily, and (if you’re feeling ambitious) watch a movie themed around the destination. Or just go to bed and dream happy, faraway dreams.

But before we can get to all that, start with this list of the best new cookbooks to take you away—with one of these on their way to you, you’ll soon be just as relaxed, rested, and gloriously well-fed as post vacation you has ever been.

6 new cookbooks for cooks who love to travel

Excerpted from The Kitchn.

With the last days of summer still ahead of us and the heat sticking to our backs, you might think grilling, grilling, and grilling are your only options for dinner. But picking at grilled chicken while scrolling through everyone else’s vacation photos is a straight path to lunacy.

So put down the grill tongs, step away from the envy, and have yourself a deliciously rollicking staycation, where you can be eating salsa-dipped chorizo and potato sandwiches in Mexico one day and Streuselkuchen in Germany the next.

Bangkok cookbook review

1. Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand by Leela Punyaratabandhu, $35

Bangkok is one of the top-ranked travel destinations in the world, and this book will slip you into the busy city and take you on the food tour of a lifetime. The beautiful photography captures a busy city — a monk looking out the window of a commuter boat, hands turning skewers of grilled meat at a market stall — but leaves out the over 16 million tourists that crowd the city each year.

Opt out of the tourist herd and opt in to a staycation with Punyaratabandhu, who will guide you through the essential and the innovative recipes and show you the pleasures of sourcing and cooking Thai ingredients every day, instead of just vacation-binging on them.

Nopalito mexican cookbook review

2. Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen by Gonzalo Guzmán and Stacy Adimando, $30

Admit it: You may be in a taco rut. But you don’t have to save the diverse miracles of Mexican food for nights out — Nopalito will usher you into a kitchen in Mexico, where anyone can master the fundamentals and extract them into unexpected and delicious weeknight dinners.

Let this gorgeous book pull you into the food and culture of Mexico, then walk determinedly into your kitchen and make those salsa-dipped chorizo and potato sandwiches.

taste of persia cookbook review

3. Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid, $35

Not every revered cuisine has a pin-on-the-map destination, and Persian food is one of those. Persia was once the world’s largest, most powerful, and intellectually advanced empire, and although Persians as an ethnic group are now mostly in Iran, it’s a culture and a cuisine that flaunts modern borders.

It’s hard to find a more ancient or humbling culinary tradition than this, and just a few nights eating at the table with Taste of Persia will inspire the same feelings of awe and curiosity that only the world’s greatest wonders can.

Click here to keep reading this list on The Kitchn!


What To Read This Week

3 Lesser-Known Books to Help You Understand, Manage, and Overcome Anxiety (Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy): Anne struggled with anxiety onset by 9/11, and here are the 3 books (originally recommended by mental health professionals) she wishes she’d had when she was stuck in the mess of anxiety. I’m a big believer that books can help us heal and untangle ourselves, and these 3 books are a great start for uncovering what’s really going on with anxiety.

8 Ways to Spark Agent & Editor Interest in Your Book (Linda Sivertsen of BookMama): “Other than writing a RIVETING page turner of a book, no matter your genre, you can guess my answer. Uh huh. Build. Your. Platform. But before you head for the fridge, hear me out. The process will grow you and your writing and make you infinitely more magnetic. Here are eight of my favorite things you can do, including resources and tactics I’ve tried that have made a big difference in my career.”

How to Run a Successful Blog as a Partnership (Rachel Tiemeyer and Polly Conner on Food Blogger Pro Podcast): My smart and sweet authors, Polly and Rachel, are chatting with Bjork of Pinch of Yum about how they run their blog together. And yes, they wrote their book together, too! (You have preordered your copy of From Freezer to Table, right?) 🙂

You Can’t Edit Your Own Book and Here Are 7 Reasons Why (Blake Atwood on The Write Life): Yes, yes, yes. You really can’t edit your own book. I’ve been an in-house editor at book publishers, and I still want someone else to look at anything I write. It’s not about skill—it’s about perspective. Fresh eyes are the best eyes.

The Odor “Wheel” Decoding the Smell of Old Books (Eric Grundhauser for Atlas Obscura): “It’s official. Science has decided that old books smell ‘smoky,’ ‘earthy,’ and more than anything, ‘woody.’” It’s almost like they’re made from trees, right?


What We’re Eating This Week

As an act of mercy (i.e. so I don’t bore you to death), let me tell you about what we ate in Chicago instead of the nonexistent dinners I’ll be having in NYC this week.

Friday: We had the most spectacular meal at North Pond! I loved the Arts and Crafts feel of the dining room, and we had a perfect view of Lincoln Park and the pond from our table. The staff even gave us a little shout-out on our version of the menu for our anniversary! Aren’t we spoiled?

best book blog

Saturday: I love, love, love when good friends cook for us, and we had some amazing Ropa Vieja at our friends’ Charley and Catherine’s house. Also, there were Hemingway Daiquiris. I felt both literary and literally stuffed.

Sunday: Again, we were treated to a great home-cooked meal of grilled salmon and potatoes and broccoli and salad by our friends Rob and Sherry. It was that perfect mix of last-bit-of-fresh summer cooking yet buttery enough that we knew we were still on vacation. It felt indulgent, so I did, in fact, indulge.

Monday: Well, we might have eaten a meat-lovers pizza and then Chicago-style Char Dogs with all the fixin’s at Midway. But don’t we all need one last binge before we’re back to the real world of respectable eating?

Tuesday-Friday: Respectability ensues. (Just kidding. I want tacos.)

Cheers!

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One-pot harissa pasta

How many hours have you been staring at the computer today? Spring is so busy, and sometimes it’s hard to shake off the glow of our screens and step out of the tunnel of the Internet.

We’re doing just that in Greece for our honeymoon right now, and oh man, does it feel good. Fresh air, new scenery, SO much to eat. After an insanely busy past few weeks, Greece feels like breathing deep again.

I’m just so happy to be spending some time outside, away from the computer. A lot of folks think us book people are introverts who’d rather sit inside all day reading a book rather than socializing. Which is totally true. But I’m also willing to sit outside all day reading a book. I think that makes me adventurous.

If you also want to try something new tonight, and you’re bleary eyed from staring at your manuscript or the computer screen for hours, then come over here. Back away from the computer, tiptoe into the kitchen, and make this really, really slowly. Isn’t it nice to remember what unrushed cooking feels like?

harissa pasta skinnytaste recipe

This pasta is:

  1. Cozy, comforting, reassuring, and all those other words you want to come home to after a long day
  2. Excellent when paired with a book or ouzo
  3. Spicy, and just a little bit adventurous. Like reading outside.

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The one word that should guide all your marketing

We’re having rain after rain after rain here, and that’s led to a lot of staying in and cooking and gin rummy playing. We recently got addicted to gin rummy after finally figuring out that we could play just the two of us, and now the competition has become fierce. Pepper has had to referee a few “disagreements” about the rules. I think that makes her the level-headed adult in the house.

(In unrelated news, here’s Pepper ready to hit the pavement for some job interviews. We had to stage an intervention last week and tell her that her free ride is up, and it’s time to start paying rent. Let’s hope someone else finds her more employable than we do!)

literary agent blog

We also spent a few days in Michigan this past weekend, and all the rain there brought up a crop of morels on the farm. We picked nearly 7 pounds of them, and now we’re going to cook them every which way we can think of.

literary agent blog

literary agent blog

Speaking of windfalls, I wanted to chat today about a word we don’t hear too often in the world of blogging and publishing:

Generosity.

Generosity doesn’t get talked about much, but it’s really the business we’re in as book people.

It’s the train car that’s pushed along by the engine of purpose—it’s essentially the outward expression of inward compassion for readers.

Generosity in writing means keeping a single-minded focus on bringing joy to others and feeling deeply, monumentally grateful that they’ve given a few precious minutes of their lives to your words. As Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in Big Magic:

“Learn to share things with an open heart and no expectations. Live out the existence that best suits your nature.”

There’s a magic that happens when you push all your cells in the direction of serving others, even if you haven’t had nearly enough coffee yet, even if you can only eke out a few moments of big-heartedness each day, even if nobody will notice or appreciate it.

That, I think, is one of the most important traits all successful bloggers and writers have: they start with giving and they end with giving, and in between they give a little more.

Effective Book Marketing for Authors

I am so, so lucky that my authors start there. They’re already at the top of their fields, running successful businesses, and well-known for the quality of their work. They have it all, and they want to share it all. That’s the kind of heart I look for when signing an author.

Which brings me to a related and important point that few people talk about:

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