For the past few weeks, Barbara-jo has been soaking up the culinary culture of Paris with all the eagerness of a dipped croissant. In her absence, I’ve been prevailed upon to co-host the latest rendition of the shop’s Wednesday night book club. What follows is the first of several reports from the not-so-lonely perspective of a well-fed book club captain.
Apart from some impressive experience as a lifelong eater – and a few vague literary credentials – my qualifications for leadership in a culinary book club are somewhat murky. Fortunately, my adept partners are Glenys Morgan and Mark “May I Offer You More Wine?” Holmes. The stovetop equivalent of the Marx Brothers at their best, they can trade quips while operating on all six burners. How can you get any luckier? The class is a welcome mix of old and new friends who enjoy nudging me over the rough spots with their honest appreciation of books, food and good conversation.
The first book – chosen in advance by Barbara-jo – is Jessica B. Harris’s High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America. A lively and informed work on the history and evolution of African-American cuisine; it sparked the kind of involved discussion that served to whet everyone’s appetite.
As always, Glenys is responsible for creating the evening’s sumptuous menu based on the culinary spirit of the book at hand. Her choices for our first class? An appetizer of Corn Fritters Indienne with Tomato Cumin Cream. This was followed by African Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup. (Made with the dark orange sweet potatoes that – as Glenys so adeptly pointed out – are often erroneously referred to as yams.) The main course? Shrimp and Andouille Jambalaya over Texas white rice. Our dessert? Buttermilk Ice-Cream and Molasses Cookies.
It was all the height of conviviality – topped off by an anecdote from Mark’s childhood involving his mother’s red high heels and a baby goat. But that’s another story.