DIY Book Clubs
Are you in a book club? Would you like to start one? We have everything you need to host your own book club, from the discussion questions to recipes you can make and serve your fellow members. Follow the links below.
Download these sheets to enhance your discussion of The Authenticity Project:
Food for Your Meeting:
There is no shortage of fun ideas if you’re planning to theme the food for your book club gathering around a discussion of The Authenticity Project. Check out these recipes researched and tested by food writer and editor Nancy Stohs.
Let’s start with Drinks.
The obvious choice is Bailey’s Irish Cream, the liqueur that Julian takes with him in a silver flask to visit the Admiral’s grave in Brompton Cemetery at 5 p.m. every Friday, as he and wife Mary used to do, meeting up there with friends.
Champagne, which was freely, liberally enjoyed en route to and from Paris, compliments of Julian, would be another fine choice, as would the gin-based English liqueur Pimm’s.
For a morning book club, consider tea accompanied by crumpets. When Julia invites his new friends to his flat, he offers his visitors English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling and mint, which was Mary’s favorite. Crumpets were also served, toasted over a fire. Crumpets are a thick, flat, savory cake with a soft, porous texture, made from a yeast mixture cooked on a griddle and eaten toasted and buttered.
They are available online and in some local grocery stores, including Metcalfe’s.
Another possibility for drinks, especially welcome during a Wisconsin winter, would be mulled wine. Once when they’re together, Monica prepares some for her and Riley. She also served it on Christmas Eve in the café. Depending on the size of your book club gathering, you might want to double this recipe.
And don’t forget ATMOSPHERE!
Set out a bowl of lemons, and open jar of strawberry jam (or have some strawberries or jam simmering on the stove) and lay out some rose petals. That’s what Julian said his apartment smelled like when Mary was there.
Well, those things plus old-fashioned hair spray from a can, and paint, aromas you might want to skip. But if not, Elnett hair spray, as mentioned in the book and made by L’Oreal, is sold on Amazon.
A Chinese Feast
Betty Wu, her son Baz (Biming in Chinese) and his boyfriend Benji are among the major characters affected by Julian’s Authenticity Project. Mrs. Wu’s Chinese food also plays a significant role. Try one or more of these recipes in honor of the feisty, wise tai chi teacher and restaurateur:
For a Chinese meal after one of Julian’s art classes, Mrs. Wu served crabmeat and sweetcorn soup, prawn and chive dumplings and vegetable spring rolls.
On her first visit to the admiral’s grave, Betty Wu brings a Thermos of her won ton soup. “It’s cold today. My soup warms the body, warms the soul,” she says. She also serves it once in Monica’s café.
Monica’s Christmas Day Lunch
If you’re meeting in December, you could pull out all the stops and re-create Monica’s Christmas Day Lunch that she served in her café.
Her festive meal was ruined when Hazard unexpectedly walked in… but yours doesn’t have to meet that fate.
First, the scene: Monica dressed her table with a white linen tablecloth scattered with rose petals that she spray-painted gold; place cards set in gold pinecones; red Christmas “crackers” (pull-apart party favors filled with jokes and paper crowns, a British tradition, readily available online), red and gold candles and a holly and ivy centerpiece. A bottle of champagne was set in a bucket of ice.
The menu: Smoked salmon blinis, roast turkey, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, Christmas (figgy) pudding.
If this is all too much for you, you could just prepare the blinis:
If yours is a book club that serves desserts, here are two options themed to “The Authenticity Project.”
If you recall, Julian is a fan of butterscotch Angel Delight; it’s on his shopping list when we first meet him. Monica remembers this later, when Julian is found wasting away in bed, and she sends Riley out to buy him a package.
Angel Delight is a powdered dessert product produced in the United Kingdom (similar to our instant pudding) that is whisked with milk to create a mousse-like dessert. It’s sold in various online stores including the English Tea Store and British Corner Shop.
OR, you can play off a conversation between Monica and Riley when they’re together in her apartment above the coffee shop:
Monica opened her kitchen cupboard, which was embarrassingly bare.
“I’ve got some cooking chocolate, if you’d like some,” she said, breaking off a square and putting it in her mouth, feeling her energy returning with the infusion of sweetness. Now the tension had dropped she realized how hungry and exhausted she was. “Monica, stop!” said Riley. “You can’t eat that. It’s poisonous.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” asked Monica, her mouth full of chocolate. “Cooking chocolate. It’s poisonous until it’s cooked.”
“Riley, did your mother tell you that when you were little?”
“Yes!” he replied. She watched the penny drop.
“She lied to me, didn’t she? To stop me stealing the chocolate.”
Prove to your fellow book clubbers that there’s nothing at all toxic about “cooking chocolate.” In fact, they will gobble up these chocolate cookies (or biscuits, as they call them in Britain). For fun, serve some chunks of the chocolate on the side.