Monday, April 14, 2014

How To Get Ready to Host Book Club

1. (well in advance) Chose the book.

I love books, so I feel like this one should be easy--I go with something that I really, really love. Unfortunately, I rarely pick something that the rest of my group really, really loves. Some of them still haven't forgiven me for Mansfield Park lo these many years ago (but come on! How can you NOT like Mansfield Park??!!) and they were a little stunned by the heft of Bill Bryson's At Home (592 pages, I just looked it up. But they went by fast.) though most of them enjoyed the first bit, which was all they got to.

This time, though, I've hit it out of the park. I dithered at first, nearly selecting The Ocean At the End of the Lane, but a lot of our club members had already read that one. In the end I chose Code Name Verity. If you haven't read it, please go do so immediately, and come back here when you're finished. Especially if you're a member of my book club. Trust me. This one has spoilers which will make you really sorry you didn't read though lunch today and finish it before our discussion. Also, it's brilliant. Also, it's short. I'm learning.

2. (not as far in advance) Chose the wine.

Self-explanatory, really. A nice chilled easy-drinking white, and a crowd-pleasing red. This isn't the time to get fancy with weird stuff from Argentina. California will do just fine; New Zealand if you're going Sauvingon Blanc.  Which I am.

3. (anytime up to day before) Chose the dessert.

In my club you get Hostess Bonus Points if your dessert collaborates with the book you've chosen. Like Water for Chocolate? Easy. That puppy has recipes right inside it. If you're reading something Southern, sweet potato pie. Bill Bryson's At Home? The obvious choice was sticky toffee pudding. Code Name Verity, however, is set in England during WWII, and though I'm an expert on that era just now (my new book, The War That Saved My Life, has the same setting) it's not a great one for food. In fact, it's lousy.  In CNV they mention bad sandwiches, scrambled eggs, and cups of tea. That's it. I thought of Eton Mess, a super British dessert, but one that does look as though it's been dropped onto the floor, scooped back up, and served, and since my book club wouldn't put my doing that past me I'd better not give them ideas. I flipped through my war-ration cookbooks. Trouble is, sugar-less egg-less fat-free cake is really barely edible during wartime; it's unconscionable in times of peace. Anyway, I'm thinking flourless chocolate torte. I can make it, I like it, and I don't often eat it. That, and some British cheese for nibbles.

4. (day of, because if you start earlier your family will only mess things up again) Clean.

The really excellent thing about hosting book club is that it forces you (me) to do something about the corners. You know, the ones in your (my) house that fill up no matter what you (I) do. The 2-liter bottle of Sprite opened and half-drunk at the pony club party in December, left on the counter for why? The golf balls. The pony tail holders. The knitting projects. The random papers, the Phillips head screwdriver, the tire gauge, brand new in its packaging. Why are these things in my kitchen? It's time to get them out. Ditto all the books in the living room, including that stash I like to think no one's been noticing beneath the coffee table.

One of my friends just squared up the stack of books in her living room, stuck a piece of glass on top, and called it a table. Kid you not. I'd try it except that I don't need that many tables.