The smell of roasted garlic wafts into the hall as I approach my friend’s West Loop condo with a group of women, all with arms full of food. As we approach this month’s Cook Book Book Club, no one strategizes about how she will avoid questions that give away that she didn’t read the book.
At Cook Book Book Club, it would be silly to read the entire book.
Here’s how a Cook Book Book Club works: The host chooses a date to host, selects a favorite book of recipes and can even select her favorite dishes from the cook book. On the given date, the other members from the club make their selected dishes and show up ready to share with the group. Wine is optional, but encouraged.
When this idea was first shared with me, I loved something about it specifically: we suddenly had a regular excuse to gather, eat and talk about whatever we wanted. I was craving a friendly ritual and there’s a reason why: friendships are directly linked to happiness and my social life is the first thing I let fall apart.
But according to Psychology Today, it’s not the amount of friendships, but the level of friendship that makes the biggest difference. True friendship – not friendships of the casual persuasion – is marked by expressing “authentic emotions to each other without fear … There is trust, honesty, empathy and an exchange of material and social gifts.”
A ritual like Cook Book Book Club was created to enforce the tenants of friendship. Everyone brings something to share, sits down for an hour and just talks about whatever they’re going through. Because there’s no discussion guide, club members naturally offer advice, catch up and share stories from the past month.
If you want to start your own Cook Book Book Club, you can start where we started: With The Skinny Taste Cookbook. At our first Cook Book Book Club, we made Cubans tenderloin, Tuscan panzanella salad with grilled garlic bread, Greek salad pita pizzas and and apple-pear crumble.
It sounds fancy because it kind of was. But the cook times didn’t feel that fancy.
Then we moved onto Run Fast Eat Slow, a cookbook by runners for runners, meant to fuel with whole, delicious foods. We ate two kinds of pastas, bison meatballs with simple marinara, broccoli chevre soup, charred cauliflower and Oregon berry crumble. My mouth is watering just reliving it.
A ritual is a great way to force yourself to do more of the things you neglect. This particular ritual takes care of two things I forget about: spending time with friends (friends who I don’t already work with, that is) and cooking meals from scratch. Chances are, if you’re feeling like you need more of that, your friends are too.
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