Every time I mention my cookbook club on Instagram or to someone in person, eager questions tend to follow. “What is cookbook club?” “Is it a potluck?” “Can I start my own?” I love hearing others’ excitement for this tradition that has become so dear to my heart. I first published this cookbook club 101 blog post in 2019 and, given all the interest that seems to surround the concept, I thought it was high time to share it again. Without further ado, allow me to introduce (or reintroduce) you to cookbook club. If you have any questions, please shout them out in the comments!
A cookbook club is exactly what it sounds like: a group of people, getting together to discuss and eat select recipes from one cookbook each month. And yet, it is so much more than this! Cookbook clubs bring the community back into cooking, which is something you either grew up with or didn’t know you needed in your life.
Instead of sweating over making four courses for friends before they arrive or missing out on catching up with them while you finish dinner, you’ll find yourself having way more fun than you anticipated while learning tricks from watching your friends make a recipe.
Today I want to go into the details of HOW to set your cookbook club up for success. Just like you might love some of your friends but never travel with them, you might want to approach your cookbook club differently than just bringing your closest friends together for another gathering. That’s not to say that approach won’t work for you—just something to keep in mind.
Okay. Onto the details.
You can structure your cookbook club in one of two ways:
1. A potluck-style gathering, where you all make your food at home beforehand and bring it over to the host’s house.
2. An evening where you cook large batches of a couple of recipes together and you all share in the spoils by bringing home a few servings of each to freeze and enjoy in the future.
Whichever you choose, there are a few important factors to consider.
Select members you think would vibe well together. I recommend no more than six members.
Mentally think about which friends you have that would fit well with the type of cookbook club you want to throw. Who loves to cook? Who is adventurous? Who is always up for a challenge? I recommend finding a mix of introverted and extroverted friends who share common values but have a wide variety of interests. Cookbook clubs are a great way to introduce people from different groups of friends.
My friends Liz, Hillary, and Dahlia were the ones who came up with our cookbook club and they each invited a person they thought would enjoy getting to know one another. It worked SO WELL because the group was small enough that we have all had a chance to connect one-on-one while setting the table or finishing a meal. Creating moments to have quality time with someone you’re getting to know is rare as an adult and it is one of the aspects of cookbook club I love the most.
Creating moments to have quality time with someone you’re getting to know is rare as an adult and it is one of the aspects of cookbook club I love the most.
Set some rules and boundaries.
Yeah, I know rules are no fun. But boundaries are important in all areas of life, especially when fun is involved! You want to keep the club just that—FUN. So make sure you have an honest conversation around logistical things like how often do you want to meet? How do you select the book? What dietary restrictions are you working with? Where do you host?
Our rules look like this:
- We rotate hosts each month.
- The host selects the book and creates the menu. She then sends out the menu via text with images of the recipes. We don’t usually buy the book until after we cook through it, which is a great way to test out if the book is something you could see yourself using in the future.
- Recipe selection is first come, first served. Usually the host calls dibs on what they will create (often the more complicated and difficult to transport dish) and the rest of the recipes are a first come, first served situation.
- We help clean up! While all the dishes aren’t usually fully washed, we clear the table and pack up leftovers into our own Tupperware containers.
- We set a date for the next time before we leave. It’s hard to align our schedules and it is much easier to do it in person.
Leave your egos are the door.
Cookbook club is about learning and trying new things—not being the most perfect cook out of your group of friends! Mistakes are, inevitably, going to happen. Most of the time, you’re cooking a recipe from scratch for the first time. There are going to be ingredients you know nothing about. You will forget to add sugar. You will burn your nuts while toasting them. Hopefully, you don’t have to use your fire extinguisher. Remember to find the fun and the lessons in your failures—it’s all part of the experience.
Cookbook club is about learning and trying new things—not being the most perfect cook out of your group of friends! . . . Remember to find the fun and the lessons in your failures—it’s all part of the experience.
Lastly, consider what you want to gain from this experience.
Are you looking to learn basic skills? Or are you wanting to try more advanced dishes? Are you cooking through different regions and cultural styles of cuisine? Or are you looking to make life easier by sharing the work it takes to feed your families? Whatever you want to gain from your cookbook club, you’ll find a deeper connection and appreciation from the craft of putting together a meal, sitting down with good company, and enjoying the fruits of your labor.