I am in a book club (mentioned before here) and I have known since January that my turn to host was coming. It goes without saying that it would feel terrible to pick a loser book or have bad food. I worried that I would have both of those things and since I don't serve alcohol in my home there would be nothing to dull the pain of the experience.
I picked a classic book for starters so that I didn't end up with something off-color or with unproven appeal, Emma by Jane Austen. Since I very much hate science fiction, deep sea themes, robots, and mimes, poorly researched historical fiction, and a few other genres, it seemed like Emma, described as "...genius, a sparkling comedy of love and marriage" would be just right.
For the book club part of the night I had the movie Clueless (inspired by Emma) playing on the TV, gave a short quiz taken from Spark Notes, and my favorite vocabulary words from the book on cards around the tables; incommoded, alacrity, illiberal, perforce, etc. I feel like my literary lady friends like the book. They all did very well on the quiz.
I tried to set my menu and my table around an English countryside them but a more modern variety. I found inspiration in photos with dark and moody fruits for fall; figs, plums, black grapes, blackberries. It is possible that I bought dozens of bushels of each fruit (need to make some jam with it all now). I also added artichokes that I dipped in gold leaf at the stem or tip for more texture on the table. I found a few food ideas in the book and built my menu around that.
I practiced a couple of new recipes, some that were perfect and some that didn't turn out. I had a caterer friend help me in this instance (GOUGERES and Cheese Straws ) and because I wanted it to turn out just right she made the cake too (delicious. ) I decorated it with all the gold leafed figs that I had painted. At this point I need to be some credit with John Hale. I trashed our kitchen so many nights in a row with my recipe experiments and he cleaned so many pots and pans.