How a Book Club Selection Inspired a Meal
Updated: Jan 22
For 18 years I’ve been in a monthly book club that has evolved over time. The constant is that we all read the same book and present our book reports. We even turn the book into a movie with opinions on what actors could play the parts. What has evolved? Well, it’s the food during our meetings.
At the onset of our club, we six friends were all working. That meant we met in the evenings after work, rotating homes monthly. The hostess usually took the day off from work and made foods that were mentioned in the book and/or enhanced the menu with food as it related to the location of the storyline. (Take note next time you read a book as various food items are always mentioned.)
About ten years ago, once we all retired, we moved from evening dinners to hosting at lunch time. We continued the concept of making a meal based on the book, but that only lasted for a few years. Then, five years ago, we admitted that we were all getting tired of cooking, so we decided to order pizza and enjoy it with a good bottle of wine. I sometimes miss the interesting or exotic foods we previously made, but these days you can bet we surely don’t miss the doorbell when the pizza delivery arrives!
Our recent book “The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post” by Allison Pataki was a great read. The book is a historical account of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s life. The story initially addresses the creation of Postum, a “cereal beverage” alternative to coffee made from wheat and molasses, to Grape Nuts, a cereal made from wheat and barley in the late 1800’s by Marjorie’s dad C.W. Post.
In 1914, after the death of her father, she became the owner of “Postum Cereal Company” and became the wealthiest woman in US history at that time. The book continues to weave through the decades of Marjorie's life.
Marjorie made her own mark in 1929 with the acquisition of the frozen-food company owned by Clarence Birdseye. No one could have predicted that C.W. Post’s Cereal Company would grow into the “General Foods” empire and reshape the American way of life, with Marjorie as its heiress and leading lady. Marjorie purchased other American food companies including Hellmann's Mayonnaise, Jell-O, Baker's Chocolate, Maxwell House and many more. In 1929, the company was renamed from the “Postum Cereal Company” to “General Foods Corporation”.
Please don’t hesitate to read The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post. It is a remarkable account of her lavish lifestyle, chronicling her success and extreme philanthropy, as well as the history of her four marriages, each of which ended in divorce. All in all, it was a memorable read. Marjorie certainly had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got.
An aside - It's amazing and telling that so many women who have acquired wealth and/or power have multiple husbands and who knows how many lovers. Is it only men who have a wandering eye?
After reading the book, an alarm went off in my head! Why not try some of the foods mentioned in the book. I would have enjoyed presenting my book club members with the menu I created below, but, unfortunately, I’m away on vacation. Fortunately, my husband was a willing stand-in.
As an amusing appetizer, I made an espresso cup of Grape-Nuts cereal and milk. In all the years I’ve eaten cereal, I never tried Grape-Nuts. The cereal surprised me with a nice crunch and the taste of toasted nuts, even though there are no nuts in the ingredients, just wheat and malted barley.
Given the crunchy texture of the cereal, I used it to coat chicken thighs. I first coated the thighs in a thin layer of honey, sprinkled on salt and pepper, and dipped into Grape-Nuts cereal. The cereal toasted nicely during the baking process and became even crispier. Prior to serving, I drizzled on more honey. It was scrumptious. To round out the entrée, I also made a Russian salad from a bag of Birdseye Frozen Mixed Veggies using Hellman’s mayonnaise to dress the salad.
The meal ended with a cup of Postum and a Postum scone (replicating a coffee scone). I made the scone from flour, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, baking powder, salt and Postum.
Postum versus coffee? I prefer the aroma and taste of coffee. Postum had an unusual flavor that I could not identify. It wasn’t bitter or acidic, it was pleasant but nothing special. Conversely, the Postum scones had good flavor, but again, the flavor was not identifiable.