Food for Thought: Start a Cookbook Bookclub

ImageOver on the PubLib discussion group, Arthur Krull asked :

Do any of you have book discussions using cookbooks?
How do you do it?
What do you discuss?
Can you actually get a dozen or so people to talk about a cookbook?
How was the participation?
How long was the discussion scheduled for?
Did it fill the time?
Do you allow patrons to bring in food they made?
What policies do you have on food brought in by patrons?

Here are some replies he received (all emphases added by me) that offer tips for libraries considering starting one of their own:

  • I think the way we may go, if we start this program, is to do a theme: Indian food, vegetarian, grilling, desserts. Then we don't have to worry about having so many copies of the same cookbook available, but rather could pull 5-10 cookbooks that fit each theme for people to select. [Marleah Augustine]
  • I lead a Cookbook Club at my library. We meet every-other month. I choose a theme (we met yesterday, and the theme was cheese), and ask participants to find a recipe based on the theme (it could be a tried & true favorite or something they've never made before, but always wanted to try). They make the dish, and bring it & the recipe along to the meeting. Everyone gets to try everyone else's dishes, and then we discuss the food, the recipes, and the recipe sources (I would say the cookbooks, but I've found that many participants, myself included, find their recipes online). We have never had difficulty with the discussion filling the time (we usually eat first and chat a little as we eat, and then the actual discussion takes place after everyone has eaten).
    I'd say we probably average about 5-7. The library provides beverages and utensils, which is a pretty minimal cost, and time-wise it is basically just publicizing it and doing set-up and take-down for the room. Our next meeting will be in June, and the theme will be "Light, fresh & healthy" (a request from one of our members). We do a cookie exchange in December, which is always fun. [Erin Saylor]
  • I've been faciliatating a cookbook discussion group for over a year now and presented on Food Programs in the Library at PLA in Indianapolis. I started noticing that cookbooks weren't just collections of recipes but often had stories interspersed as well. I love reading cookbooks and thought others might too. It's been pretty successful, there are usually between 12-25 people attending each month.
    We don't always do the same cookbook, sometimes we do a theme, like Food Network Stars or Soup, only because it isn't always practical to get multiple copies of the same cookbook. I usually schedule an hour for discussion. We talk about whatever recipes we made.
    I usually show some sort of video as well, sometimes just a short 1-2 minute cooking tip or technique - check out how to chop chocolate by America's Test Kitchen, one minute of awesome! I have found videos to show like the book trailer or even an interview with the author or a cooking demonstration by the author.
    If you'd like to see the handouts from my PLA presentation, go here Scroll down to Thursday at 2:00 and look for "Cooking the Books". [Stacy Alesi]
  • Inside each book I included a recipe review sheet, and a cookbook review sheet. The idea is that participants cook their way through a number of the recipes, select one they really liked, review it, and make/bring it with them to the meeting. Then everyone gets a chance to taste something, and everyone has something to talk about. [Megan Fenton]
  • Lawrence Public Library has a cookbook club ( - they have, in the past, done potluck dinners featuring food found in the cookbook as part of the "discussion". [Robin Hastings]
  • At the New England Library Association's conference last fall, Theresa Maturevich, a librarian from the Bedford Free Library in Massachusetts did a presentation on their Cookbook Book Club. It sounded fantastic, although rather time-intensive. Here are a couple of links: (this was the handout from the conference) [Cindy Schilling]

    Source of posts: PubLib archive of posts from April 2014
    Photo credit: Jessica Wilson via Flickr