Monday, April 11, 2005

Introducing my book group

Members of the Reading-and-Eating Book Group
front floor row: Marilyn, Lea
Couch/chair row: Diane, Me, Juliet, Halla (holding Lea's baby, Zane), Sarah
Members missing from photo: Meg, Jen, Tiphany

My book group decided to do Reading Lolita in Tehran for our next book which means we'’ll have a good Persian meal when we meet in May. Suggestions for favorite Persian side dishes, anyone? I need to hustle and finish Blindness so I can divert some brain-power to Reading Lolita.

I realize that I haven’t mentioned my book group yet. Here'’s a little background: we call ourselves “"The Reading-and-Eating Book Group" because shortly after we started meeting (about 5 years ago) we realized that

1. Our group contained some great cooks
2. It was fun to theme a potluck around the book we read
3. A good meal is an incentive to show up, especially if you hated the book that month

Whoever is hosting the group for the month is responsible for the entrĂ©e; the rest of the group brings appetizers, side dishes, wine (or other appropriate alcohol) and desert. We usually read contemporary fiction, but have been known to make occasional dips into non-fiction. Unlike some groups that decide their reading list once at the beginning of the year, we are much more flexible: —at each meeting (or shortly after via email) we talk about what we are in the mood for next. I usually keep a running list of books that everyone has mentioned (they do have to be in paperback) and we sift through them and try to find something that fits the literary mood, season, or culinary craving of the group. While some of the books have been lousy or forgettable, the meals have been spectacular! —I can’t think of one that was disappointing. I've also learned that sometimes a lousy book leads to a great discussion and a great book leads to all of us sitting around grinning and saying inane stuff like, "“I really liked it,"” and "“Me too.”" Of course, sometimes a lousy book is just a lousy book.

For a link to what we have read, look here. Of course, I couldn't resist noting which books I loved and which I hated. I know that some of the books that I hate are ones that regularly appear on other people’'s favorite books lists, so I'’ll attempt to justify my dislike of them at some point in the future.

I happen to know that the reading-and-eating concept has been picked up by at least one of my friends; Lynne was instrumental in starting her own reading-and-eating book group.

I am guessing that this week will be a bit of a culinary void; with Brian out of town, I revert to my single eating habits which include copious quantities of tofu. The Asian food store sells 2.5 lb tubs of organic tofu for $1.75 and I bought one so that is my challenge: —to eat it all before it goes bad. I plan to turn it into:

  • scrambled tofu
  • udon with tofu and greens
  • pasta with pesto and tofu
  • brown rice with garlic tofu and marinated cucumbers (this is one of my favorite fast meals, so I'’ll try to include a recipe for it this week)


Sarah said...

Our rice cooker works well even for brown rice.

Annie said...

What a great collection of books. I can only imagine the meals that went with them. I also loved Last Report and hated Red Tent, and must know why YOU hate The Time Traveler's Wife (which I love!).

Kate said...

What a relief to hear that someone else hated Red Tent! Half the very intelligent women in my book group loved it and I just couldn't stand the book. I'm trying to think of a concise way to describe why Time Traveler's Wife pissed me off; at first I liked the concept and thought it was very clever, but as the book went on, I felt like the story got away from the author. Once they were married Clare struck me as a sop--I think the author too closely identified herself with Clare (fiber artist, red hair) and thus didn't explain why Henry, or I, should care about her. She pissed off a number of women in my book group with her pregnancy issues, particularly her insistence that an adopted child isn't a "real" child. I thought it was gratuitous when Henry's feet were amputated and I also don't buy that their daughter found time travel exhilarating and enjoyable--if there is anything more vulnerable than a man being dropped naked into a different time, it's a girl or woman. All I could think of was how many times she'd be raped. I guess one of the reasons that I disliked the book (rather than just forgot about it) was that there were some scenes that I thought were wonderful--like when Henry visits himself as a child. When I read them, I wished this author had found a better editor who could have helped her take the clever concept and the parts that were well-written and bring the rest of the book up to that level. I guess that my feelings about poor editing also carry over to the Red Tent, though to a more extreme degree—I thought this book wasn’t bad at first, but the four mothers were far more interesting than the character of Dinah and once they were out of the picture, I thought the book had no idea what it was doing; I didn’t give a rat about Dinah in Egypt. Another clever concept, (and I’m a big fan of re-telling bible stories—David Maine’s The Preservationist is a terrific book), but poorly realized.