Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Spice of Life: A Reading Challenge, hosted by Rebecca Reid, is my very first challenge. I've avoided reading challenges in the past because I thought they'd have too many complicated rules, and I truly like to "do my own thing", to read what I want to read when I want to. I was quite pleased to discover that for this challenge, which I learned about initially on Books of Mee, you choose your level of participation, and that the "rules" are very relaxed. "A Taste" of the Spice of Life challenge only requires posting about two food-related books. Two is certainly possible for me! I also thought I'd start with Julia Child's first cookbook, Mastering The Art of French Cooking, because I recently saw the movie Julie & Julia and was inspired to read her debut cookbook, but I changed course this morning. I went to the library to find the cookbook, but it's already checked out (not surprisingly), so I won't be able to get it for at least a month. And I didn't want to splurge on a new copy for myself from a bookstore, as I've been buying myself far too many books lately.

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"In the context of this sisterhood, I was introduced to the potluck, and it became my template for community"
~Potluck, Kim Thomas

Each year, I go to several potlucks. Usually they are held after the music recitals which my children perform in, but sometimes they are just get-togethers. When I spotted Potluck: Parables of Giving, Taking, and Belonging by Kim Thomas, I took a look inside and saw stories followed by recipes, and I thought this book would be fun to read. But that wasn't the only thing I was thinking. I have a confession. When it comes to potlucks, I am out of luck. Whenever I have to cook for a group substantially larger than my family, I fail. Miserably. For the last potluck I cooked for, a violin recital, I made fried rice. It turned out to be awful. I'd even packaged it with extra care so that it would stay warm while the violinists were performing, but this only served to ruin the taste of the dish even further. I'm not sure exactly what I did wrong, but the results were disastrous, and even my kids, who love and request my fried rice at home, hardly touched it.

As I read the lovely stories in Potluck, with titles and subtitles such as An Honest Little Cake: The Virtues of Imperfection, Root Vegetables: Life From Dark Places, and Cake Potluck: Creativity Is A Gift, which are followed by recipes guaranteed (under normal circumstances) to please any crowd, I felt hopeful. I felt inspired. I wanted to make the recipes in the book, Jamie's Carrot Muffins, Cristin and Kale's Spring Rolls, Scott's Tortilla Soup. I even wanted to try making the somewhat "risky" lime-loaf. I thought that maybe, just maybe, my "potlucking skills" would improve after reading this book. Maybe my dishes would be eaten up, maybe I would receive praise for my fine cooking, and maybe someone might even want my recipe!

To make a long story short, this book did not change my life, nor my status at potlucks. Potluck is an entertaining book, and I enjoyed the ideas and ideals in addition to the recipes, but it wasn't life-altering. I tried a few of the recipes (not the lime-loaf), but I still cannot cook well for a large group. Consequently, I've had to accept my inability to cook for potlucks. The last time I went to a potluck, I brought ready-made fried chicken and cookies from the supermarket. There were no leftovers.

If you have an easy recipe for a potluck dish, or an experience or thought that you'd like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments. Thanks for reading!


  1. Ironically, this challenge seemed to have too many rules for me! How funny. I thought about participating, when I thought it was just read X number of books in any of these categories, but the whole this many here, this many there - that didn't work for me. Not saying anything bad about the challenge - it sounds interesting and I love the blogger who's hosting it - but it just didn't work for me. I've been trying to only join very relaxed challenges lately, that give me a lot of freedom of choice.

  2. Amanda, for some reason this challenge seemed very easy to me, especially at the level of participation I chose, "A Taste". And I really do want to read Julia Child's first cookbook. This challenge will help me do that. Thanks for your comment!

  3. And I should add that seeing all the reading challenges you do, Amanda, influenced my recent decision to try a couple. :)

  4. You're right, it is hard to categorize; I think I won't even try to keep to categories next year!!

    It does sound like a nice book, but I'm with you in getting scared off of new recipes some times. Ah, too bad.

    I plan on reading Julie and Julia in the next two weeks -- I won it so I don't have to wait at the library.

  5. Rebecca, thanks for stopping by--and for hosting such a fun challenge!

  6. :)
    I dnt have any books about food - or i would join.. But the book sounds really cool!

  7. It's great to see you "officially" joining the challenge, Suko! Looking forward to your next reviews for this challenge!

  8. Mee, I'm so excited to be doing this challenge and am grateful that you posted about it. : )
    I'm also looking forward to the Japanese Literature Challenge, and have ordered two books for that, one a novel and the other a children's picture book, even though I think you're only required to read one.

    Thank you all for the comments. More are always welcomed!

  9. This does sound like an interesting challenge.
    Great review, Potluck sounds good, even if it was a life altering read.
    sorry to hear about the fried rice!

  10. I hope you do not mind. I have sent your blog an award-details are here


  11. Diane and Naida, this is a fun challenge--I hope you'll participate.

    Mel, of course I don't mind--thank you! I always thought it a cute award.

  12. Amanda, I'm the host and I'm finding the same thing: it's too confusing with too many rules!


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