This is how I started a cookbook club and why you should, too!
I think we can all agree that making friends once you’re out of school can be tricky. Especially if you work from home like so many of us do now, it can be hard to figure out where to start.
A couple of years ago, I had just moved back to my hometown and was missing the easy access to fun and friends that we had while living in downtown Washington, DC. I decided to go out on a limb and message a girl I knew growing up, but hadn’t spoken to in years. It felt like asking someone on a date! Luckily, she said yes to meeting for coffee and we had a great time catching up. She mentioned that while she liked her job, she really loved to cook, something I love, too. After our “date,” I remembered that a few months prior, I’d read this post about how to start something called a Cookbook Club.
I love to cook, too, so I proposed the idea to my new/old friend and we decided to go for it. It has been nearly 2.5 years since that first conversation and I am proud to say our Cookbook Club is still going strong, though it has shifted in many ways since our original dinner. It has been a really fun, meaningful part of my life. Below are the details of how we got started and the iterations we’ve gone through until now.
- We followed the inspiration blog post’s recommendation and kept it small. I have a tendency to be a “more the merrier” type of person, but an intimate group has allowed us to get together frequently without the competing schedules of many people. We have four people in ours, though we have invited other people (like a friend in town) to join us for a specific dinner or brunch every once in a while. We also include our spouses occasionally, like for Friendsgiving.
- At our first “meeting,” we decided we wanted to meet once a month and that we would make sure to choose the next date while we were together. This structure meant we actually got together on a regular basis and gave us momentum!
- We rotate hosting. Because the responsibility shifts for hosting, we all get to enjoy both being a hostess and a guest. I think this has also been key to making it sustainable long-term.
Different Models and Iterations:
- Cooking All Together: For our first many months, the hostess would choose a cookbook as inspiration (this was our first!) and decide on the menu. She would buy all the ingredients for those dishes and the guests would bring wine, appetizers, and desserts that complimented the meal. None of us had babies at this point, so we would gather at one person’s house, cook the meal all together, drink wine, laugh, and clean up all together. It was very silly, relaxed, and often went late into the night. This was such a fun system! Plus, we got better at cooking because we learned how to make new dishes together.
- Potluck: After we began having babies and their schedules to work around, we started to do a potluck model where the host would still choose a cookbook and the menu, but each person would make the dish when they had time and bring it. This worked great for not being able to stay out as late, but was just as delicious.
- One Person Cooks: During periods where multiple people have had small babies, we started getting together earlier in the day (often in the morning/brunch), and adopted the system where the host provides the main meal or snacks and if someone is able to, they bring something along, but there is no pressure to contribute. For example, the hostess would make a couple of quiches, cinnamon buns, or a “breakfast board.” Guests might bring coffees, fruit, or pastries (usually something they could pick up on the way). The emphasis was less on the food and more on our shared craving for quality time together and to get out of the house.
- Let’s Go Out: A few times we have decided we are exhausted by the daily cooking required for life during a pandemic and we should treat ourselves to a dinner out instead! This can be a great model for a cookbook club because you’re appreciating food (someone cooked it!) and spending time together. That’s all that really matters!
- Bring Whatever: Right now, we are in a phase where one of our members again has a new baby. We went from one to five kids between us (with another on the way) since we started meeting! Every baby has brought new transition and right now, the best system is just for one of us to pick up coffee, someone grab bagels, and to meet for an hour or two. We eat and talk and connect and it’s really all we need right now. I’m sure one day we will be back to fancy dishes and wine, but this is what works best at this stage of our lives. No dicing required.
I hope this gives you some inspiration to start a club of your own. It made me laugh trying to find photos for this post because we are always so preoccupied eating, drinking, and talking, we rarely remember to take one! The “formality” of calling it a club, together choosing a frequency to meet, a hosting system, and what “cooking” model will work best for you all right now is all you need to get going. I think the flexible structure we have has really made it what it is. Without being on the same page about expectations, it would have been easy for us to have one fun dinner and it never happen again because there was no plan for who hosted next or how the club worked.
Time with the other three girls in my cookbook club over the past couple of years has been truly life-giving. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. When we were in the thick of COVID, we met outside. When someone has had a new baby, we bring dinner to them. When I was really struggling, my Cookbook Club meant I had really close friends who I trusted, saw regularly, and could lean on to tell me that what I was going through was harder than the “normal” new mom experience. It has reinforced in me the real value of deep connections and how vital it is for our wellbeing. Now, I am creating Cookbook Club 2.0 with my new Mom Group to bring even more people together to reap the benefits of love and support with women in a similar life stage!
Please let me know if you decide to start a cookbook club, I’d love to hear about it! Happy cooking!
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