Introducing the Cookbook Book Club: Midwest Made by Shauna Sever

Cookbook Book Club

There are few things, in my humble opinion, better than good books, good food, and good company. Little else is able to fill my heart the way sharing a meal or discussing a book with friends can. (Okay, maybe listening to ABBA on full blast also ranks among those things?) Combining my love of friendship, food, and fables, I recently decided to start a Cookbook Book Club.

Could we have called it a Cookbook Club? Yes. But is it as fun to say? Definitely not.

The idea was to pick a text (not necessarily a cookbook, more on that later) once every four to six weeks that everyone would read and pick a dish to cook from. We pick the text based on a rotating basis, giving each person an opportunity to decide what we’re cooking from. In a post-COVID world, we’ll gather potluck style to taste each other’s dishes, share tips, discuss what we learned, and ask questions. In the meantime, we’re gathering via Zoom to show we’re what we made! A couple discussion points we’ve been hitting on are:

  • What occasion is this dish good for? (ex: bringing into the office, something quick for an unexpected guest, a weekend project)
  • What level of difficulty do you think this dish was?
  • Did you learn any new skills while making this?
  • Would you make this again?
  • What advice would you give to someone making this?
  • Did you make any substitutions? Would you in the future?

I put out feelers with some friends who I knew might be interested, and the response was resounding! People loved the idea, and quickly, our little group was formed.

One concern we all had was the cost of our club. Cookbooks can be expensive, no joke. We decided that while a person can pick a cookbook, they can also pick a certain edition of a cooking magazine, or recipes from a certain cooking TV show, or an entire cooking website/series, the possibilities are endless! As long as everyone is pulling from the same source, we don’t have to pick a cookbook and spend $30 each month.

The club is low commitment, I didn’t want people to feel pressured to participate every month. My goal is that friends feel welcome to participate as they’re able and available, even if they missed the last month or two. We feel out how big the group will be each month by starting a thread 2 weeks out from the meeting date asking those who are joining what they will be cooking. This way, we know who to expect and don’t overlap dishes.

The first pick came from my college friend and roommate Elodie! Always true to her Wisconsinite roots, she picked Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. Six of us joined the Zoom meeting, while others who couldn’t make the Zoom shared photos and blurbs of what they made on the Facebook group.

I made, at the request of my father, Sever’s donut loaf. The colossal loaf was not difficult, but it was involved. Personally, I felt a similar effect and taste could be achieved through a simpler recipe. The consensus from the group was that Sever’s cookbook is meant for a more experienced baker, who doesn’t mind going the extra mile for a more true-to-tradition result. Other dishes made included the butter pecan cake, the lemon bundt cake, and the banana bread.

I’m excited to continue trying new cook books and recipes, and connecting with more friends over delicious food!