My little dream of starting a vegan cookbook club came true!
We moved to Seattle last year, and on the recommendation of a vegan shop owner, I joined the Vegan City Seattle (WA) group on Facebook. Apparently there is one of these “Vegan City” groups for many metropolitan areas around the world! I’ve benefited from being a bystander in the group, and seeing posts about new restaurants, comparisons of the best local non-dairy ice creams, and more. On one occasion, someone posted about a Vegan Cambodian Pop-Up happening at a nearby restaurant, and offered to reserve a large table for people that wanted to join. Kyle and I went and met a handful of great people while enjoying some pretty good food. Other than that, I haven’t seen many other events posted in the group, so while I have a virtual community of nearly 5,000 people, it didn’t really feel like I’d met many new like-minded since moving here.
That all changed in July when I decided to dust off an idea some friends and I had back in Washington, DC. Before we moved, a few friends all made recipes from the same cookbook, and it was the best way to really try new things. Because not all my friends are vegan, I didn’t try all the dishes, but I still loved the concept. So, mid-July, I made a new group on Facebook (and invited my husband, because Facebook doesn’t allow single person groups) then posted on the Vegan City Seattle (WA) page. I was so nervous my post would either a.) get totally ignored and I’d feel like a dope or b.) get flagged because I missed some guideline and I’d be booted from the group.
To my joyful surprise, this seemed to be what Seattle was missing! Within minutes the positive comments and “likes” started coming in, and with a day or so, my original post about the Seattle Vegan Cookbook Club had sparked some real excitement. All these people I hadn’t met yet were coming to the new group page and joining. My heart was full!
I wanted to keep this a very democratic process – I didn’t invite a few dozen people to my new group so I could boss people around. Using the poll feature, we voted on best time of the month to meet, and what cookbook should be first. We capped the first even at 12 people and this helped to keep things more manageable – from remembering everyone’s name and getting a chance to talk to everyone, to being able to try all the recipes. We also kept the group to chefs only. While I see a ton of value in a BYOB (bring your omnivorous buddy – patent pending) event, we wanted to make sure the chefs all got enough food first.
The first event was such a success! Although our group shrunk slightly with some morning-of cancellations, we still had a balanced meal of slaw, burgers, pasta, stir-fry, casseroles, homemade sausages, and dessert! The book of the month was Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and of the 150 recipes, our menu was as follows:
Inaugural Seattle Vegan Cookbook Club Potluck Menu
Chapter 2: Salads
Sesame Slaw with Warm Garlicky Seitan (pg 58)
Chapter 3: Handhelds
Olive Lentil Burgers (pg 89)
Chapter 4: Pasta & Risotto
Sunflower Mac (pg 116)
Lentil-a-Roni (pg 134)
Chapter 6: Stir-Fries & Sautes
Cast-Iron Stir-Fry with Avocado, Basil, & Peanuts (pg 175)
Chapter 8: Sunday Night Suppers
Chandra Malai Kofta (pg 216)
Tamale Shepherds Pie (pg 231)
Chapter 9: A Few Basic Proteins
Steamy Beany Sausages (pg 237)
Chapter 11: Desserts
Peachy Raspberry Cobbler (pg 298)
I shared one of my photos on Instagram, and the Steamy Beany Sausages (pg 237 in Isa Does It) got Field Roast’s attention. Even they liked our Vegan Cookbook Club concept (or at least the shout out I gave them about this sausage recipe being compared to their products).
So You Wanna Start a Cookbook Club?!
If you are in Seattle, join us! In another city? Here are some steps for making your own:
1.) Find some buddies: Do you already have hoards of like-minded friends who want to try this out? Lucky you! If not, you’ll find your people soon enough. Check out the Vegan City [insert your city here] Facebook page, or connect with a local vegan group. Even if you have a vegetarian group nearby, start there. Those are just future vegans who need a strong support network.
2.) Pick a date: While some folks fly by the seat of their pants, others operate better with some order. Decide on a recurring meeting day/time, and then everyone can look forward to it each month.
3.) Pick great books: My favorite way to introduce people to my lifestyle is through cooking and baking. I’ve won hearts and minds with my chocolate chip cookies. I also love hosting dinner parties where everyone is so full from delicious food, they don’t even realize it was all plant-based. Pick a book not everyone has, and share pictures of the recipes. If the recipes are delicious enough (and easy enough to follow) I’m sure a few more folks will purchase the book after the potluck!
4.) Set ground rules: Decide if your event is to be chefs only or BYOB, agree to follow directions as closely as possible so everyone gets a true representation of the recipe, decide if you want to meet at a park or in someone’s home, and decide where you’ll need to cap the event (just because Isa has 150 recipes in the book doesn’t mean our first event would have been anywhere near the same experience if we had 150 chefs!)
5.) Communicate: As people select recipes, be sure to keep that info organized so you don’t have duplicates or a potluck of all similar dishes (unless that’s the goal!) and be sure to keep people informed of any other logistics (where to park, what else to bring, etc.)
6.) Have fun: If you don’t meet new awesome people and eat delicious food, something’s not right. Back to the drawing board!