I love my book club. When the meeting is at my house, I get all themey, and plan the menu around the book we are reading. We just finished Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and today, I am happy to share my Coast-of-Maine-themed book club dinner, plus some Book Club Cuisine Toppers I designed for you to use on your own Book Club fare. They can be used for any book. For example, I served Basket of Trips Blueberry Crisps from the kitchen of Olive Kitteridge. But, if you were reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, you might serve Minny Jackson’s Best Fried Chicken from the kitchen of Celia Foote.
Notice I used the words “you might serve” instead of “you might cook” … this is because, if you are like me, you might be speed-reading your last chapter on the day the meeting is to take place at your house. For this reason, clever procuring of your thematic refreshments might be the only way to go. In fact, if you listen to audible books, as I do, you can listen to your last pages while driving to your favorite food market. How’s that for multi-tasking?
Here is a link to the printable Book Club Cuisine Toppers I made for you, a very easy DIY project you can make while listening to the end of your story. They are constructed in the same manner as these Birthday Toppers. Just cut one out, paste to a piece of card stock, tape a skewer to the back, and then tape it to a second piece of card stock to cover the skewer. I added a raffia bow just because. The fun part is creating the names for your dishes. See below for some of the catchy cuisine titles I included in our menu. (Well, they seemed catchy at the time.) And I have included a link to the blueberry crisps that, in fact, I actually did make from scratch. Thank goodness for fail-proof Alton Brown.
I decided to go with a seafood menu since the story takes place in a small town in Maine, combined with a few dishes of olives, in honor of our main character’s name. I also wanted to offer a hearty fare because I knew Olive Kitteridge, who loved to eat, would have wanted it that way. Due to some tight deadlines, I knew I could-not-would-not be able to actually make seafood anything, so I used my excellent hunting-gathering skills and came up with a book club dinner menu which might have been prepared in Crosby, Maine, but was easily gathered in Austin, Texas. The perfect accent was provided by Mother Nature who gave us a very unusual blanket of snow on the day of our meeting, so we could even have a real fire in the fireplace without turning on the air conditioner.
This was our menu … feel free to steal any of these apropos titles if you are reading Olive K. For appetizers, I served Olive’s Abrasive Yet Tender Olives from Whole Foods and Mother of the Groom Shrimp Appetizer from Central Market.
For dinner, we enjoyed Olive’s Clam Chowdah (an interesting-sounding title when uttered with my Texas twang) from Whole Foods. I added some Half & Half to make it a little less thick. I garnished it with some freshly ground black pepper and some chives. Schoolteacher Salad with Maine Blueberries and Olive’s Big and Blunt Baguette (with Butter, of course) rounded out the main course.
After a lively discussion, individual ramekins of Basket of Trips Blueberry Crisps came out, which I actually made from a great and easy recipe by Alton Brown. Here is a link to the recipe and to a little video that I found very handy when wondering if the “crushed ginger snaps” should be chunkety or crumbledy. (It turns out they should be chunkety.) I mixed half ginger snaps with half shortbread cookies for my cookie portion of the crisp, but you can make any kind of mix you choose. The Maine blueberry mix was made with half blueberries and half raspberries, and, since it is winter, our Maine blueberries were actually from Chile. The nuts I chose were pecans (to lightly toast before adding). I can also report that the recipe for the topping was more than enough and I have a large amount of the crumble left in my freezer, which I plan to pop onto any fruit any time we have a hankering for a fruit crisp.
So there you go. Happy reading with a Maine menu to match.
P.S. If you have a good book that your book club has enjoyed, please let us know in our comment section. We are always looking for a tasty new read.