In an Uptown apartment one recent weekend afternoon, a group of women ate Enlightened Peanut Brittle and Walden Pond Pound Cake. There were Cozy Pigs in a Blanket to nosh on alongside Veggies and Diploma Dip.
The curious names of the dishes all came from the coming-of-age “novel cookbook” The Recipe Club. The women cooking (and eating) the literary vittles at the event, billed Will Read for Food, are all members of a group known as the Chicago Cooking Chicks. The book-club angle is a new one for the CCC; previous events have been no-library-card-required.
The club is led by Vanessa and Giselle Moses, Detroit transplant siblings (and former sorority sisters) who kicked off Cooking Chicks about a year ago. “I think it’s one more thing to bring us closer together,” Giselle says. The social group hosts several events monthly, featuring home-cooked dishes and desserts. (The book club is a recent addition to the lineup.)
Newcomers can sign up alongside standing members, usually for a small fee that covers the cost of food. The group boasts more than 400 Cooking Chicks, but the Moseses limit gatherings to 20 to 40 women to preserve intimacy. The next happening, Sunday 12 at Katherine Anne Confections Chocolate Kitchen (2745 W Armitage Ave, 773-727-3248), is being advertised as “afternoon Cocktails and Chocolate! No BOYS allowed!”
“Meeting other people who are also young professionals who like to cook and eat [after work] is really hard to do,” says Cooking Chick Caitlin Roth. “I feel like our generation only orders in.”
In Uptown, the women are sampling The Recipe Club goodies—Celebration Cheesecake Pie and Peanut Butter Blondie Bars—and sharing takes on the book. Giselle says the title was a perfect Cooking Chicks book club selection because of its narrative about two girls who wrote letters back and forth, exchanging recipes each time, as they grew up in the 1960s. But the reviews aren’t exactly positive. (“They felt some of the [recipes] weren’t realistic,” for young girls to make, Vanessa tells me.)
“When [the girls in The Recipe Club] were older, they were melodramatic and immature, but when they were young they were very wise,” says Kelly Alesso. “I had pen pals. I didn’t write anything deep and meaningful.” Alesso joined the ranks of the Cooking Chicks not long after she moved to the city last July to practice law. She says the lack of men in the group takes the social pressure off; she also appreciates that her fellow members are serious about reading and cooking and aren’t just looking for an excuse to hit the pubs.
“There’s nothing wrong with meeting boys at the bar, but sometimes you just want to make friends.” And while Alesso is an avid cook, she showed up bereft of Recipe Club–inspired provisions to share with the group.
“I made bread pudding,” Alesso says. “It was not successful, so I brought wine.”
Sign up for Chicago Cooking Chicks events at thecookingchicks.com.