Book Club Food Ideas for Hearty Discussions

book club food ideas for hearty discussions
Is your book club in need of some fresh food ideas? In our most recent annual survey, we asked subscribers what snacks or meals their book groups prefer for their meetings. Below, we'll share with you some of the most popular responses, along with suggestions and resources that you can use for cooking up fun, food-filled sessions with your club in the future.

Of course, since the beginning of the pandemic, many clubs have moved online and remain there. But meeting virtually doesn't mean you have to miss out on refreshments. In fact, ordering, picking up or preparing food separately (or taking the time to drop off treats or individual meal portions for your fellow readers) can create a different form of connection to bridge the distance between members.

So here are some ideas for easy food inspiration. Bon appetit!

Make something easy and shareable

Food ideas from our survey respondents include shareable snacks such as cheese and crackers, charcuterie trays, and fruit and veggie arrangements.

Meals that are easy to separate into individual portions are also great for sharing. An especially beloved dish among book clubs is quiche. Pizza and pasta dishes are also popular standbys; as are hearty soups with bread, chili, baked potatoes with various toppings, and salads (perhaps a light green salad if contributing to a potluck, or something more robust such as a bean or pasta salad if providing the main dish).

And respondents are particularly fond of dessert options of every type, including pies, cakes, muffins and sheet pan recipes such as lemon bars and brownies.

For help preparing your own easy and shareable snacks, meals and desserts, here are a few hearty recipe lists to peruse:

Create meals or snacks (or drinks) based on the book

Many groups plan meals based on the setting of the book they're discussing, or in some way match books with food. As fun as a themed spread can be, figuring out how exactly to bring it all together can be challenging, so below are a couple of resources to help.

Taste of Home provides a list of 30 recipes to pair with books your club may already be planning a meeting around, including Korean cream cheese garlic bread for Michelle Zauner's Crying in H Mart, a classic aviation cocktail for Sarah Penner's The Lost Apothecary, and nutty stuffed mushrooms for Cheryl Strayed's Wild.

The Book Club CookBook makes it easy to browse book-related recipes by type (appetizers, entrees, etc.) or book title. You can also look through their impressive list of authors who have contributed to the site. Try your hand at Elizabeth Strout's recipe for her famous character Olive Kitteridge's grandmother's doughnuts; So You Want to Talk About Race author Ijeoma Oluo's butterscotch "feminist pudding," with optional bourbon; Alka Joshi's "royal" rabri (a North Indian dessert) as depicted in The Henna Artist; or Amor Towles' Latvian stew, which he discovered in Saveur magazine and which later provided inspiration for a scene in A Gentleman in Moscow.

Keep it low stress

Whatever food your book club shares, try to keep it low stress. Some groups love creating elaborate meals but it's not for everyone; in fact, in an earlier survey, we found that half of book clubs either had a snack or no food at all; and some respondents had stopped participating in a book club because they felt that the hosting had become more important than the book discussion. In another survey conducted during the first year of the pandemic, a significant number of respondents admitted that, while they were missing the conviviality of meeting in person, they were happy to be able to focus more on the book discussion and less on the food, and hoped that when their group started meeting in person again that the food preparation would be dialed back.

Support your local restaurants

Taking the pressure off is one of the reasons some subscribers say that their group prefers to go the restaurant route all or some of the time, another reason is because they like to match the restaurant to the setting of the book they're reading; but keep in mind that a noisy restaurant can make it difficult to hear each other, which is why some groups meet in the same restaurant or cafe each time, reserving a table that they know to be relatively quiet. Eating out is also a great way to accommodate dietary restrictions, as your group can take part in a low-effort shared experience while giving everyone the chance to choose their own meal.

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Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah