The Book Buzz
Parties Without Panic
Twelve Tips for Inexpensive Entertainment
Several years ago, a few co-workers and I decided we wanted to do something fun, cheap and intellectually stimulating in our lives. We also wanted a good excuse to eat, drink and be merry. Thus, the Fledgling Book Club was born.
At our inaugural gathering, we discussed Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, sipped White Russians and explored different European dishes. Rich conversations about why the impassioned Anna threw herself under the train ensued. Next up was Flannery O'Connor and Southern fare complete with creamed corn casserole and buttery biscuits. As our club continued its meetings, we went through a litany of diverse books while matching the cuisine with the plot or setting. No matter the literary selection or flavor, each get-together consisted of delicious food, books and conversation that often strayed far from scholarly or culinary matters.
Not surprisingly, our love affair with mixing social pleasure and food is not uncommon. "Supper clubs have regained a resurgence in popularity," says Jorj Morgan, author of At Home Entertaining: The Art of Hosting a Party With Style and Panache (Cumberland House Publishing, $18.95). "They're like comfort food only with friends."
Morgan cites several reasons supper clubs are popping up in communities across the nation. For one, supper clubs offer great food and company at an unbeatable price. "For couples who are watching their pennies, a night out on the town can be very expensive," she says. "Staying home with friends and sharing the cost of meals is an inexpensive yet totally fun way to get together."
Cooking and entertaining with friends also affords you the opportunity to tap into your inner child, Julia Child, that is. "Supper clubs are a great way for cooks of all skill levels to share dishes they create with friends," Morgan says. "Plus, everyone has a little Iron Chef in them. Showcasing cooking skills for friends is an extension of the weekend warrior mentality. "My flambé can beat your flambé any day."
Caroline Jones and her husband Rence enjoy the dependability of their supper club. "You can get so wrapped up in everyday life that you don't make time to be with your friends, but supper club is something we can count on each month," Caroline says. To ensure consistency, Caroline's club maps out dates ahead of time. "Everyone is busy, so we set the schedule a year in advance," she says.
In addition, Morgan recommends serving food that can be prepared in advance so you can enjoy the meal with your guests. "Or share the duties and have each member bring a dish," she says. "You can also cook the food as a group." Some supper clubs make sure the host doesn't cook. Hiring a babysitter to keep little ones occupied during the food and entertainment (you can split the cost among members with children) is also worth the effort.
But don't go overboard. Too much planning may stifle your creativity. Although the dates are predetermined for Caroline's club, each month's hosts choose the actual style and flavor. "The dinners are usually pretty casual, but if you want to pull out your wedding china, you can," she says. As for food, there's something for every palate. "We've had everything from Italian cuisine to Creole-inspired dishes with shrimp and other seafood."
Food and formality aren't the only ways to show off your creativity. Supper clubs come in many imaginative incarnations. Some clubs adopt a cookbook or magazine like Cooking Light (check out the "Supper Club Hub" for information on how to start a supper club, menu ideas, etc. at CookingLight.com) to cook from each month.
Others discuss media (music, movies and, of course, books) while dining. And don't be limited by the word supper. "Coworkers can form a 'Lunch Bunch' and offer meals to each other during the work week," Morgan says. This not only saves you money since you won't be grabbing fast-food, but it saves time since you won't have to worry about packing a lunch or leaving the office to satisfy your taste buds.When it comes to forming a supper club, the pie's (errr…sky) the limit. It seems the only required ingredients for a supper club are food, companionship and a dash of fun. "Anyone who wants to start a supper club just needs to remember to have fun with it," says Caroline. "So long as you're getting together and enjoying your friendship, you'll have a great club."
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