This Year's Dinners

V = vegetarian friendly / P = pescatarian friendly / M = meat lovers /
G = Gluten free / A = All

1. Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food – Ann Hood
Pull up a chair to this close-knit dinner based on the recipes of a cook whose Italian American roots and experience feeding her growing family reflect her philosophy of starting from scratch and feasting with friends—and her belief that the perfect meal is one that tastes like home. M

2. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
This magical novel about a boy searching for a good book—and finding himself instead lost in the deep, dark secrets of post-World War II Barcelona—provides the backdrop for a Spanish feast that capitalizes on two of the most popular specialties of the region: tapas and paella. M, P

3. The Magus – John Fowles
When Englishman Nicholas Urfe accepts a teaching position on a small Greek island, he falls under the influence of a millionaire recluse and master trickster. But don’t worry: if you choose this feast, the only “godgame” you’ll be subjected to is the heavenly magic of a splendidly-prepared Greek repast.M, V

4. Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter
The story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 inspires this robusto feast, which will include an antipasti platter of cheese, salamis, peppers and olives, followed by Italian wedding soup, Caprese salad, chicken parmigiana and spaghetti with homemade marinara, and fresh Italian bread. Bellissimo! M

5. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
This classic comic novel featuring the eccentric and oversized Ignatius J. Reilly—whose adventures include pushing a wienie cart up and down the streets of New Orleans—will bring you the best of The Big Easy’s world-famous cuisine, including shellfish (and, of course, hot dogs!). M

6. Gravity’s Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
The arc of this dinner on goes from good to better. In honor of Pynchon’s elaborate breakfast scene, this dinner will be a “breakfast for dinner” feast including a number of over-the-top interpretations of tradition brunch fare. Don’t worry, no nuclear fallout or postmodern chaos at this meal, only the “fragile, musaceous odor of breakfast!” M

7. The African Queen – C.S. Forester
Relax and bob down the Ulanga River to the music of a kora, a traditional West African stringed instrument, while enjoying a blend of traditional and healthfully creative dishes designed to tease the sophisticated palate. And never fear: we won’t let any spinster missionaries pour out all the liquor! P, V, G

8. Istanbul: Memories and the City – Orhan Pamuk
This dual-themed feast straddles mainland Turkey and island Greece with a hearty menu—roast lamb and potatoes, shrimp with rice, tomatoes and feta, stuffed peppers, tabbouleh, and baklava—that reflects Homer’s quote: “A hungry stomach will not allow its owner to forget it, whatever its cares and sorrows.” Come toast Homer’s beloved Chios with some ouzo, a sip of Metaxa, or some Turkish and Greek wine! A

9. The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom – Simon Winchester
In a nod to this book’s English protagonist, British cheese will be served with drinks, but the feast will be Chinese, with dumplings, family-style spicy shrimp, pork and green beans, and other vegetables, all prepared with lots of tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. Guests who haven’t had enough heat may also sample some fiery “baijiu” liquor. M

10. The Other End of the Line – Andrea Camilleri
Hints of Greek, Spanish, French, and Arab cuisines will color this meal inspired primarily by the island of Sicily, where Inspector Montalbano is doing his best to deal with a wave of refugees while simultaneously solving crime and gorging himself on the superlative local dishes his housekeeper leaves for him. M

11. A Beam of Light – Andrea Camilleri
Inspector Montalbano of the Sicilian police may have his hands full, but his stomach is another story. He would relish filling it at this feast featuring the best of homemade regional Italian cooking, including antipasti (bruschetta and an artichoke frittata), a primo piatto, and a secondo of homemade osso bucco. Buon appetito, Salvo! M

12. Washington Black – Esi Edugyan
This feast honors the story of George Washington Black, a boy enslaved on Barbados whose epic quest for dignity and meaning takes him through North America, Europe, and Morocco. It will feature a ragout or tagine, most likely of duck, as well as grilled plantains, pigeon peas, and other culinary delights. M

13. A Man Called Ove– Fredrick Backman
The Swedish curmudgeon Ove is a real meat-and-potatoes guy whose orderly life is suddenly disrupted by his chatty, free-spirited new neighbors. This feast’s menu evolves with him from Swedish hors d’oeuvres (smoked fish) to a chicken main course and side dishes inspired by the Iranian woman who changes his life forever. M

14. The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho
Like Santiago, the Andalusian shepherd boy who yearned to travel in search of worldly riches, you may discover a satisfying treasure closer to home if you choose this dreamy feast that starts with a variety of Spanish tapas and encourages guests to explore the golden delights of a vegetable or seafood paella. P, V

15. Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
Go bounding after the eccentric Bernadette with a feast that mirrors her route from Seattle to Argentina to Antarctica. ‘Bee’ blown away by Pink Penguin cocktails and Pacific Northwest wines, Ted Talks Tasty Treats appetizers, Microsoft iceberg salad, Ushuaia beef stew, Seattle pear and parsnip gratin, and Antarctic chocolate icebox cake. M

16. Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner
A novel about the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin provides the framework for this vegetarian meal that will highlight the delectable cheese offerings of those two states as well as a selection of mouthwatering vegetable dishes. This one is definitely a safe—and delicious—choice! V

17. Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri
No maladies are likely to arise from this healthful and scrumptious Indian feast, which will include either butter chicken or chicken tikka masala, tamarind-glazed baby back ribs, coconut poached shrimp, chickpea curry, vegetable meatballs, stir-fried green beans, cucumber salad, daal, and flatbreads. Don’t you feel better already? P, G

18. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
The author’s impoverished girlhood in 1950s Naples sets the stage for this feast of classic and vanishing dishes from southern Italy. Venture beyond pizza, pasta, and prosciutto to embrace lost regional recipes for rustic, romantic specialties that have been passed down through generations of great Italian cooks. Brillante! M

19. The Godfather – Mario Puzo
It would be a crime to refuse this wholesome and hearty Italian feast, at which your hosts will make you an offer of vegetarian lasagna, kale salad, bruschetta, and savory Tuscan beans. And unlike the Corleones, you won’t have to sit with your back to the wall. Just relax and mangia! V

20. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Occupied France provides the setting for this Gallic feast that starts with sparkling wine or Kir Royales, hors d’oeuvres of warm gougères and paté, a main course of coq au vin with potatoes and French green beans, followed by a cheese course with fabulous homemade baguettes, and plenty of wine—naturellement! M

21. The Trumpet of the Swan – E.B. White
You’ll want to trumpet the news of this fine feast, which begins with Louis the swan’s room service order at the Ritz in Boston of watercress sandwiches, followed by a grain salad, and a fish-based course inspired by Sam Beaver’s fishing trips. There will, of course, also be a ‘cygnet-ure’ cocktail! P

22. A Bend in the River – V.S. Naipaul
Follow immigrant Salim down the Congo in the turbulent 1960s with an African feast fit for The Big Man himself, featuring delicacies such as palm-and-peanut-laden chicken moambe, spinach fumbwa, papillotes de porc, and cassava/plantain fufu—with maybe even a ‘Bigburger’ from his friends’ franchise thrown in for good measure! M

23. A Long Petal of the Sea – Isabel Allende
The path of refugees fleeing the civil war in Spain to sail to Chile provides the dual inspiration for this feast that offers the best of both Spanish and South American cuisine, including tapas and pintxos to start as well as meat and non-meat options, all prepared with a distinctive Latin flair. M, V

24. The Rum Diary: A Novel – Hunter S. Thompson
Go gonzo with this exuberant mix of classic and nouveau Puerto Rican cuisine, starting with refreshing rum cocktails and little bites such as pastelillos de carne, ensalada de bacalao (salted cod), and mofonguitos de camarones (shrimp), then tangle with a main course of pernil (slow-roasted pork), arroz con gandules, tostones and platanos maduros (sweet fried plantains). M

25. Tinísima – Elena Poniatowska
Celebrate the cooking of the country that inspired and adored Tina Modotti, muse, labor activist, spy, adventuress, and photographer who documented Mexico’s richness prior to World War II, with this feast she would have loved: slow-cooked pork and beef dishes, salads and salsas, homemade corn tortillas, and ample tequila and mezcal. M

26. The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love – Kristin Kimball
Roll up your sleeves and dig into this fresh feast of vegetables and pasta inspired by the memoir of a journalist who left New York City to interview a farmer and ended up shedding her city life to marry him and start a farm near Lake Champlain. Bring your own hoe (not really)!  V

27. Pomegranate Soup: A Novel – Marsha Mehran
Savor this Persian feast (with a dash of Irish) based on the tale of three sisters who flee Iran for a little village in Ireland and set about introducing the locals to the mysteries of red lentil soup, abgusht stew, rosewater baklava, and the exotic aromas of cardamom and saffron at their Babylon Café. A

28. In a Persian Kitchen – Maideh Mazda
The author shares her Azerbijian family’s rich traditions and authentic recipes, which your hosts generously pass along to you in this Middle Eastern feast that features cold yogurt soup, eggplant caviar, rice with Fesenjān (stew with pomegranate and walnut sauce, which may be eaten with or without chicken), and salad. A

29. Becoming – Michelle Obama
Follow the former First Lady from Chicago to the White House, enjoying food and drink representative of the Windy City’s culinary foodways—from pierogi and soul food to Jeppson’s Malört—as well as highlights from her time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. No political affiliation required, just a willingness to have a good time! M

30. Flights – Olga Tokarczuk
Hop on board this feast, inspired by stories whose characters wing throughout Western Europe and Asia, offering a reinterpretation of Polish cuisine that includes vegetarian dishes such as vegetable and cheese pierogies as well as meat stew, baked vegetables, and salads that beautifully fuse Polish and Asian spices. No TSA check required! V

31. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
You won’t need bait to catch this authentic Cuban feast of island specialties, including black bean stew, green salad, tropical shrimp, pineapple and rice served in a pineapple shell, mixed vegetables, Cuba Libre cocktails, and wine—and you even get a chance to haul in a prize bottle of Old Havana Rum! P

32. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
Join native Brooklynites on a culinary tour of one of the most diverse food destinations in America. The combined influences of early Scandinavian, Irish, and Italian settlers, Eastern European immigrants, and more recent Asian residents all come together to create a dinner so fantastic you’ll never want to fuhgeddaboutit! M

33. Bel Ami – Guy de Maupassant
Don’t let de Maupassant’s classic Parisian novel about a scoundrel’s corrupt rise to fame spoil your appetite for this sensational French feast, which will feature pan-crusted Salmon avec Dijon cream, Poulet au Porto, and a veritable embarras des richesses of irresistable plats délicieux. Ooh la la! Quelle affaire! A

34. Educated – Tara Westover
Born to hard-scrabble survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, the author struggled to break free—but you’ll enjoy this virtual return visit in the form of a Pacific Northwest feast, starting with smoked trout or salmon and featuring leg of lamb, green vegetables, and—of course!—Idaho roast potatoes. M

35. Tug of War – Barbara Cleverly
Joe Sandilands, survivor of the Great War, solves crimes with Scotland Yard, this one in France. Celebrate Alsace-Lorraine, central to WWI, with this feast: luscious choucroute garnie à l’alsacienne (sausages, bacon, and ham), potatoes, and sauerkraut. Season with juniper berries, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Add flammenkuchen, Riesling, maybe Quiche…Lorraine? The rest…a …mystery! M

36. Notes from the Hyena’s Belly – Nega Mezlekia
Growing up in the arid Somali region of Ethiopia, Nega survived by living off the land. Happily, your hosts have Eastern Market and other venues to hunt and gather the ingredients for this feast, which will bring you a taste of the meats, vegetables, grains, and spices of this ancient land. A

37. Surprise Me!