Book Club Tips, Tricks, and Recipes

Starting your own book club can be a fun and exciting thing. But it’s also a bit of work to organize, garner interest in, and keep people coming. Here are a few tips and a bit of advice in book clubbing from several book club enthusiasts who’ve operated book clubs for several years and who love what they do as much as they love the written word.

·         Time! Time! Who’s got the time? Before reinventing the wheel, look around your area to see if book clubs already exist that you could join. It takes a lot of the work out of starting up your own if you can find a group already running. A little time in research now might save you hours and hours of work later. Call your local library or book store and see if they’re aware of book clubs that are open to new members.

·         Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” .”~Steuart Henderson Britt
If you’re starting your own, the first thing you need is people. The best form of advertising your book club is word of mouth. Get a friend or two who like the sorts of books you like—people from your office, church group, or group of friends. This small beginning usually ends of being the core group, the ones who are the constant. Once you have your core group, have them tell a few friends, who tell a few friends, who tell a few friends . . . or you can do things the way Ruby in The Newport Ladies Book Club did it: advertise with a flyer in libraries and bookstores. This offers the excellent opportunity of meeting new people!

·         Missing in action . . . Don’t be discouraged when some members of your book group only go to a few meetings and then drop out. It usually isn’t personal. People have busy lives and sometimes they want something to fit because they love the idea of it, but reality crashes in and it just doesn’t fit. It’s okay to have some members float in and out.

·         The code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. . . But you gotta have one. Have a predetermined time that you plan on holding book club before you even start advertising. People say that a successful book club has anywhere from 8-12 members. That is a lot of busy schedules to juggle. If you have a preset time, then people know up front whether or not they can consider joining your book club based on their own schedule. The Newport Ladies Book Club is the first Saturday of every month at 7 pm. The rules should include information like who will be hosting? Where will book club meetings will be held? What, if any, food will be served? Is this a dinner book club, or more of a dessert book club? How will books be chosen? Who will lead the discussions? Some rules set up at the beginning will save hurt feelings later if someone continually gets bypassed on being able to choose a book or have a chance to host.

·         If you feed them . . . they will come . . . Having food is a really good idea because food tends to draw people out of their shells. It relaxes them and makes them feel involved. Try to always have a beverage and a light snack—cookies or whatever to serve so that people can  have that as an icebreaker.

·         HAVE FUN!   The opportunity to meet and discuss books with like-minded individuals is twenty shades of totally awesome. It allows us to expand our minds and helps us to cultivate our thoughts. Don’t let your book group become so much of a project, with organizing and fixing food that you forget the most important element is to have fun.
Olivia makes a special anniversary dinner at the beginning of her story and I decided to include a couple recipes from that failed event in case anyone is doing a dinner book club. May your dinner turn out to be better attended than Livvy's . . .

Garlic Creamed Peas

2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
2/3 cup water
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons chives—finely chopped
2 garlic cloves--minced

Melt butter in small sauce pan on the stove top. Add minced garlic and green onion and let simmer over very low heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let garlic sear (brown) or it will turn bitter. Remove from stove and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine peas, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then stir in butter.
In a small bowl, whisk together cream, flour, and sugar. Stir mixture into peas. Cook over medium-high heat until thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Honey mustard asparagus
2 pounds asparagus (use fresh asparagus for best results—canned asparagus tends to have a mushy texture)
6 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Rinse the asparagus in cool running water. Make sure to rinse well because asparagus has a tendency to have dirt granules hidden within it's spears. Snap off the tough stem ends.
Whisk together 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl
Toss asparagus with the olive oil mixture to coat (I use a quart sized ziplock bag for this) and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and cook 5 to 7 minutes, turning often, until spears are bright green and crisp-tender.
While the spears are cooking, place all of the remaining ingredients (honey, Dijon mustard, chives, remaining lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil) in a medium saucepan, and stir to mix well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, just until the sauce is heated through. The sauce can be microwaved if you're in a hurry (which, let's be honest . . . who isn't?), in which case, place the sauce ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave uncovered on high power for 1 to 2 minutes, or just until heated through. Add a teaspoon of water or two if the sauce seems too thick.
Just before serving, arrange asparagus on a platter and season with additional salt and pepper if desired and drizzle with the dressing or serve the dressing on the side for dipping. For a pretty look, tie several spears together with long green onion chives.
Best served warm.