KITCHEN ACCOMPLICE: A book club dinner

By John Kirkendall

Our book club recently decided to combine its typical book review with an evening of dinner and wine. What a good idea! And literary works provide such a panorama of ideas for menu planners. They turned to me for suggestions. I was aided in my exploration by a delightful and classy little book by Sean Brand, entitled "Literary Feasts, Inspired Eating from Culinary Classics." In fact, it is compelling reading even if you opt not to delve in to any of its several intriguing food ideas.

The cover of this tiny, hard bound book is impressive and looks as though it should at least contain the Magna Carta, if not the Dead Sea Scrolls. But what it does contain, while not of life-changing import is of considerable interest to cooks and book aficionadoes alike.

When was the last time your family sat down to a dinner inspired by Shakespeare or Milton? It's fun to contemplate -and interesting to immerse oneself in culinary literary lore. And there are several ideas awaiting you. I will share some of those with you today. They may just provide a springboard to bring an exciting evening to your book club.

Somehow it seems fitting to start with breakfast, and who better than Charles Dickens' writing in the Pickwick Papers? I could do no better than to quote the author: "Before 1880, the laws of England stipulated that wedding must take place in the morning, and it was customary for the bride, bridegroom, and guests to leave the church following the ceremony and head straight to breakfast."

Brand points out the required ingredients for the success of the breakfast are a bride and groom, mince pies, a Christmas cake, a bevy of servants, a supply of handkerchiefs, a very great deal of wine, wedding clothes, and leather boots.

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" provides definite possibilities. Each guest should come armed with a ghost story.

The dinner itself is opulent and not something you will read about in your recent issue of Weight Watchers magazine.

For appetizers, begin with a soup, Potage a la Reine Blanche (chicken soup with rice, vegetables, almonds and cream.)

An intermediate dish is Filet de Merlan a l'Agnes, white fish with butter served with an Eperlan a la Sainte Therese (Salmon.)

To move on with the more serious eating, gather together sweetbreads and chicken, a roast lamb laid on a bed of spinach with pastry surrounded by daisies.

I do hope you have saved room for dessert. We have a pudding for you: a la Reine Elisabeth. It is made of bread, milk, marshmallows, butter, bananas and raisins Don't forget the dish of Plover's eggs, and the apricot cake with marasquin jelly.

No one will complain they had this for lunch.

Is it any wonder that visions of ghosts accompanied this repast? Whatever happened to the headless horseman....


Judge John Kirkendall is a retired Washtenaw County Probate judge. He presently serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. He is past president of the National College of Probate Judges. He can be reached at

Published: Thu, Mar 24, 2011