Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, Colleen Connolly-Ahern was on the hunt for a cookbook based on literary couples (think Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy). She wanted to gift it to a friend—a fan, like Connolly-Ahern herself, of romance novels. But no such book existed, so Connolly-Ahern, an associate professor of advertising and public relations in the Bellisario College of Communications, decided to write it herself—not just with her friend in mind. It dawned on her that the marriage of reading and cooking could help anyone looking to start a book club, or reignite one that might be running out of steam.
Make Book Club Lit Again: Recipes and Ideas to Bring Classics to Life includes four of Connolly-Ahern’s favorite romance novels from four different time periods and set in four different parts of the world: The Tale of Chun Hyang (Korea); Pepita Jimenez (Spain); Erec and Enide (France); and her personal favorite, Pride and Prejudice. These great stories, she says, lend themselves well to simple recipes that any reader can easily make using pantry staples.
“My idea was that if I give you some background about each book, you can create a meal from it,” she says. “You bring your dish to book club and everyone gets to taste what everybody else made. Even if you haven’t read the book, you still have a reason to go to book club.”
Connolly-Ahern consulted historical sources and existing cookbooks to come up with many of the recipes in the book. “I did a lot of research on what kinds of foods would have been most likely to show up in those places at those times,” she says. “For Erec and Enide, for example, the recipes are derived from medieval recipes, when there just weren’t the kinds of ingredients that we think of as part of European cuisine.”