Tablespoon Cookbook Club isn’t your mother’s book club, or even your mother’s cookbook. The group equips local readers with more than just recipes — they become acquainted with the culture, region and history behind the dishes, too.“I have a ton of cookbooks, I love to travel and I love food and cooking,” says Jordan Hamons, founder of Tablespoon Cooking Co., the company behind the club. “The cookbook club was kind of a selfish way for me to be like, ‘Oh, I’m working,’ when I’m actually doing something that is fun and I wanted to do.”
A graduate of the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State (and the University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business), Hamons worked as a corporate chef before she left to explore other options in the industry. Tablespoon Cooking Co. was born in September 2016, and now Hamons teaches hands-on classes at Findlay Kitchen, along with a team of professionally trained chef-instructors.
The cookbook club was, for her, an “easy extension” of her cooking company. The premise is similar to that of a regular book club: members read a selected book, then meet up and discuss. In Tablespoon’s case, they chat via a Facebook group before meeting for a friendly potluck, which consists of dishes made using recipes from the cookbook. Hamons puts out a Google Sheet for members to claim what they’ll be making (to ensure no duplicates). Then, all that’s left is to cook, meet and eat.
“Food is universal,” says Reeta Gupta Brendamour, a cookbook club member. “Everybody eats and there’s so much tradition that revolves around food. When you go to this and you hear other people talk and they’re from those ethnic origins, it inspires people to talk about things you probably ordinarily wouldn’t talk about with strangers.”
A retired lawyer, Brendamour found the club through Tablespoon’s cooking classes. Part of being a retiree, she says, is exploring things you’ve never done before. That includes, for her, competitive bridge, knitting, dance classes and now, cooking. As someone with “no interest” in cooking before, Brendamour says she’s already taken three Tablespoon classes at Findlay and attended the first two meet-ups of the cookbook club.
The first book selected for the group was David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. The second meet-up in January revolved around discussing and eating food created with recipes from Made in India, by Meera Sodha. Meetings are held on the second floor of Revel OTR, an urban winery on 12th Street, which is spacious and quiet.
Well, except on Tablespoon Cookbook Club nights. As the group of more than 15 people (mostly women, one man) poured in for the January meet-up, dishes in hand, Hamons and her team arranged everything, coordinating heating supplements and pouring wine.
Hamons works with Revel to try to source wine from the region on which the cookbook focuses. They were unable to procure Indian wine for this event, but subbed in some Indian beers and other wine instead. Once everyone had arrived, Hamons led the group, going around the room and inviting people to introduce themselves and their dish. Folks loaded up their plates and sat down to chat and dine.
Fragrant aromas filled the air: warm curry, the comforting smell of fluffy basmati and homemade chai. The chicken curry was tender, the green beans full of zing, the spiced potato tikki with tamarind and date chutney were flaky and flavorful. It was a smorgasbord of Indian food that was familiar in concept and name, but expanded beyond what you can find at most local Indian eateries.
“I love cooking. I’m obsessed with this science of cooking and trying new recipes and everything,” said first-time attendee Nancy Grayson. “I think I’ve made new friends and I’ve learned a lot of new food recipes I want to try.”
Here’s another fun facet of the cookbook club: At the end of the evening, everyone votes on their favorite dish in either the sweet or savory category — sometimes, just first and second place winners are announced with no category. Grayson won for her fennel-seed ice cream and black-pepper ice cream. (I can attest to their respective delectability.) One winner takes home a copy of the cookbook for the next meet-up and the other receives a free registration for the next club meeting.
The next three cookbooks for Tablespoon Cookbook Club have already been selected: Extra Virgin by Gabriel Corcos and Debi Mazar, which explores the Tuscan region; Koreatown by Deuki Hong; and Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain. Pick up a copy of any of them at Joseph-Beth Booksellers for a discount or visit Tablespoon Cookbook Club’s Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/tbspcookbookclub to get involved.
For more information on Tablespoon Cookbook Club or the Tablespoon Cooking Co., visit tablespooncookingco.com.