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.
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
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.
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.
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