This Year's Dinners

V = vegetarian friendly
P = pescatarian friendly
M = meat lovers only
ALL = a varied meal with options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike

1. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
This feast of traditional cuisine from Afghanistan will really soar! Start with succulent appetizers, followed by perfectly spiced main dishes of lamb and fish served with some of the carefully prepared rice dishes that serve as the cultural touchstone of the Afghan table. Run with it! ALL

2. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
It will be easy to find your way to this feast inspired by Hemingway’s quintessential novel of the Lost Generation. Just follow your nose! Can you smell those sautéed mushrooms and filet mignon already? Accompanied by wild rice and mixed green salad, this menu is guaranteed to banish disillusionment and angst.   M

3. L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making Paris My Home – David Lebovitz French
You’ll revel in the pure delights (and—Dieu merci!—no disasters) of this French feast based on a memoir and recipes by the expatriate chef from Chez Panisse. The menu will show off Lebovitz’s flair for creative vegetarian dishes, although some meat or seafood options may also be served. V

4. Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars – Lee Billings
If you’ve ever wondered what dining is like in a galaxy far, far away, this is the feast for you! Some friends from Andromeda have warp-sped your hosts a few suggestions that they have adapted to American farm-to-table tastes. Since wine doesn’t travel so well, though, it will all be of earthly origin. M

5. Red Sparrow – Jason Matthews
This timely (ahem) novel about a Russian agent trained in the art of seduction includes a recipe at the end of each chapter, making it a natural for a Literary Feast! With a scrumptious mix of Russian, Italian, Afghan, and Greek specialties, this international menu will have you tweeting with delight. M

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
No hacking (or tattoos) required to get into this feast inspired by Larsson’s novel. You’ll be warmly welcomed to a bountiful dinner of Nordic cuisine, known for its fish, fowl and game, tasty casseroles and rustic bread, and Life's Water -- aka Akvavit. M

7. Bread and Wine – Ignazio Silone
The traditional fare of Abruzzi is showcased in this feast based on a novel about a peasant uprising in Mussolini’s Italy. No need to resist this abbondanza menu, which will include pecorino, salumi, caponata molisana, farro soup, lamb with olives—and, of course, plenty of bread and wine! M

8. No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria – Rania Abouzeid
A prize-winning journalist’s account of the Syrian conflict sets the stage for this feast, which offers a mezze appetizer course featuring both familiar (hummus, baba ghanouj) and not so familiar dishes (muhammara, mutabel), followed by a main dish of lamb or chicken with rice and vegetables, and an assortment of Syrian sweets and baklawa.  M

9. Murder on the Île Sordou – M.L. Longworth
A hotel on an isolated island off the coast of Marseille. A group of privileged guests. A looming storm. What could possibly go wrong? Join Aix-en-Provence sleuths Verlaque and Bonnet for a feast with a Provençal-style menu to feature saucissons and poulet!  M

10. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – Fanny Flagg
Come take a load off and have yourself a sit-down at the Whistle Stop Café! On today’s menu, we’re featuring traditional Southern comfort food (duh), including pulled pork and brisket, okra, black-eyed peas, biscuits, chow-chow and, of course, green tomatoes. You want us to fry some up for you, honey?  M

11. Washington’s Crossing – David Hackett Fischer
On Christmas night in 1776, George Washington’s colonial army crossed the Delaware River to defeat the Hessian forces at Trenton. This holiday feast celebrates that pivotal Revolutionary War battle with champagne, followed by a menu of roast goose, Thomas Jefferson’s macaroni and cheese, colonial paté, and mulled cider and wine. M

12. American Indian Trickster Tales – Richard Erdoes
No tricks—just plenty of treats—at this feast based on tales of Native American folklore and focusing on a menu of Southwestern American cuisine, known for its corn, beans, squash, melons, pumpkins, and wild turkey. What form will the wily trickster take? Come to dinner and find out! M

13. Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China – Paul French
In a nod to the British protagonists of this Beijing-based true-crime story, you’ll enjoy some Stilton cheese with your pre-prandial cocktail, then you’ll segue to pork and scallion dumplings, followed (well before midnight) by an Asian-style dinner of chicken and cashews, steamed fish and vegetables. M

14. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – Jamie Ford
The discovery of a parasol left behind by a Japanese family interned during World War II triggers a cascade of memories—and inspires the menu for this Far Eastern feast. Expect sushi, miso soup, dumplings, stir-fried beef, rice, and other traditional dishes from the Land of the Rising Sun. M

15. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám – Edward Fitzgerald
“A jug of wine, a loaf of bread—and thou.” That may have sufficed for the romantic poet, but your hosts will do much better by you, offering a Persian feast fit for a Shah. Specialties include delicately spiced Adwiya chicken and dishes featuring eggplant, yogurt, pomegranate, mint, and more. M

16. The Debt to Pleasure – John Lanchester
This feast invites you to tour France along with the novel’s gourmand narrator, who wended his way to the south of France. Sample from seasonal menus that boast the best that French country cooking has to offer—but be advised that, like any traveler, you may encounter some surprises along the way! P

17. The Year of Living Dangerously – Christopher Koch
Unrest may be in the air, but even revolutionaries have to eat! And who could resist this Indonesian feast of satay, nasi goreng (fried rice), gado-gado (salad), soto (soup), and/or tumpeng, a cone of rice served with sides of vegetables and meat that is hailed as the country’s national dish. V (halal)

18. Rules of Civility – Amor Towles
You’ll be puttin’ on the Ritz at this feast based on the story of a young woman caught up in the whirlwind of New York high society in the 1930s. Think cocktails at the Wellington, fine dining on the QEII, tableside service… aah, the good life. (Black tie and tails are not required.) M

19. The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Based on a tragic story of unrequited love and its fateful conclusion, this feast just may just drive you to… drink! But as you raise your glass, help yourself to some tasty sauerbraten (German pot roast) with red cabbage, roasted potatoes, and cucumber salad. You may never feel sad (or hungry) again. Gutes essen! M

20. Paris to the Moon – Adam Gopnik
Join the former New Yorker writer on his “sentimental re-education” as he discovers the magic of living in the City of Light—and, of course, eating all that marvelous French food at his favorite local bistro. This Parisian-inspired menu will consist of an appetizer, roast chicken, vegetable, and a salad. M

21. Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook – Alice Waters
Reawaken your senses at this feast that pays homage to the pioneer of California cuisine and the queen of creative pairings. Waters’s culinary philosophy—with its emphasis on the freshest, most sustainable ingredients—is adapted here to the seasonal fish, vegetables, wines and cheeses found locally in the DC area.  P

22. One Thousand and One Nights – Anonymous
It will only take you one night to fall in love with this Mediterranean/Middle Eastern feast! Your story starts with arak (aniseed-flavored spirit) and mezze, builds with a haloumi and fig salad, climaxes with grilled seafood and mujadara (lentils and onions), and ends with Turkish delight. Eat your heart out, Scheherazade! P

23. Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain – Chris Stewart
When life gives you lemons—and olives and almond groves—what can you do but buy the farm… and celebrate your new home with a Spanish feast! This one starts with appetizers of assorted tapas, followed by “deconstructed” paella-flavored rice, shrimp in green sauce, and Spanish-style chicken and vegetable dishes.M/P

24. Sideways – Rex Pickett
The ultimate buddy road trip inspires this California harvest dinner and wine pouring that sets off with a grilled vegetable antipasti sott’olio, passes through heirloom tomatoes with whipped burrata, basil oil and balsamic reduction, and wends its way to mixed grilled meats, roasted potato salad, and Brussels sprouts with lemons.  M

25. Faces in the Crowd – Valeria Luiselli
Based on a novel about a translator living in Mexico City, this multi-course feast offers a mix of traditional and contemporary Mexican flavors and forms, relying on classic ingredients of corn, green and red chili pepper, green and red tomato, and pork several ways—all served with mezcal and tequila, juice, and beer!M

26. The Power of Light – Isaac Bashevis Singer
Welcome to Bubbe’s Hanukkah party! Sit, sit! Have some Mediterranean-inspired dips with fresh-baked pita, why don’t you? We’re also having homemade latkes, applesauce, cranberry sauce, green salad, and smoked fish. Would you maybe like a glass of Manischewitz? (Note that other, more palatable beverages will also be on offer.) L’Chaim! P/V

27. Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
This Mexican feast draws on recipes from the magical story of a chef whose birth is prompted by her own onion-induced fit of weeping. Ah, but which dishes to choose? Guacamole, poblano chilis in walnut sauce, chicken mole, tortillas, Mexican rice, tortilla soup, black bean salad? Only two things are certain: margaritas—and no tears! M

28. Guernica – Dave Boling
Leave the Spanish Civil War behind and enter a lantern-lit bar in Basque country, where you’ll warm by the fire and revel in laughter and conversation while enjoying a variety of tapas-style small plates (pintxos), Spanish wines, grilled and roasted meats, roasted marinated red peppers, and other flavors of Spain. On egin! M

29. Mama’s Bank Account – Kathryn Forbes
Travel back in time with Mama and her immigrant Norwegian family for a fine Scandinavian feast inspired by the beloved book, classic play, and movie, “I Remember Mama.” Join your first-generation hosts and fellow guests for an evening of old-world hospitality that is sure to culminate in a rousing “Skol!”M

30. Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri
This book about Indians navigating between old cultural traditions and the baffling new world of America provides the theme for Lahiri’s nine stories—as well as the basis for this Indian feast presented in nine courses—including hors d’oeuvres, soup, breads, entrée, salad, and a signature cocktail—that correspond with each story. P

31. Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America – José Andrés
Not to be outdone by the Spanish-American chef credited with bringing the small-plates dining concept to America, your hosts, who will be newly returned from Spain, plan to present some fresh ideas as well as a variety of tapas with vegetables and seafood to sample, and a dinner featuring Mediterranean fish. P

32. Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult
Who could harbor ill will while breaking bread together? Based on a thought-provoking novel about race, privilege, prejudice, and compassion, this comfort-food menu will touch your soul and inspire you to commune with your fellow guests over homemade lasagna (meat and vegetarian versions), roasted chicken, seasonal vegetables, and plenty of red wine. ALL

33. Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières
Captain Corelli, the love-struck suitor and mandolin-playing officer in charge of the Italian garrison on a Greek island during World War II, provides the inspiration for a romantic Italian feast—bistecca fiorentina (grilled steak with olive oil and rosemary), risotto and vegetables—sure to win him the heart of the beautiful Pelagia! M

34. The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
There’s nothing small about this moveable feast, which boasts not only an exotic Indian menu but also dual locations. Guests will enjoy drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and Indian appetizers at one spot, and then move next door for a tandoor dish, two curries, a dal, rice, and homemade condiments. M

35. The Red Balloon – Albert Lamorisse
Meandering through the streets of Paris, with or without a balloon, can give you a real appetite! Pop into this feast for an amuse-bouche of sablés and olive tapenades, a frisée salad with bacon, egg, and garlic toasts, and a main course of roast lamb with braised vegetables, salsa verde, and chickpea puffs. M

36. Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantzakis
This feast embraces the Greek love of rich meat and fish dishes, olive oil, goat cheese, layers of filo dough swimming in nuts and honey, and of, course, retsina and ouzo. Unless you’re stuffed like a dolmada by the end of the evening, you may want to dance like Zorba—but please, no smashing the plates! M

37. Leonardo da Vinci - Walter Isaacson
Celebrate history’s most creative genius with this feast steeped in the flavors of his native Tuscany. Featuring an antipasto platter for starters, followed by a dinner of osso bucco with polenta, green vegetables, and a salad—plus plenty of Italian wine—this one is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face! M

38. The Odyssey – Homer
Don’t wait to enjoy the fruits of this feast based on the classic poem about Greek hero Odysseus’s decade-long journey home to his patient wife Penelope. Let the sirens lure you to this Mediterranean-themed dinner, which will include olives, hummus, grape leaves, kabobs, and a variety of vegetables. M

39. Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs – Beth Fennelly
The comic, mundane, and quirky facets of everyday life explored in these hilarious micro-memoirs inspire a feast that plays on the book’s whimsical moments. A contemporary American menu will include five courses, each of which will feature a hot and cold memoir-inspired dish, with wine, beer, and cocktails served throughout. ALL

40. Surprise me!