Book Club No. 1 – The Good Earth

Last winter, family & friends held a monthly craft party. A pARTy, if you will. Then summer came along and we busied ourselves with fishing and gathering and camping and such. Craft parties fell by the wayside. This time around, we decided to do a book club every other month and a craft party for every other other month. The idea behind the book club was to find a book with good bones for choosing food and decorations for a lovely party.

Awhile back, I was scanning the shelves of my local library for an audiobook to listen to in the car and found The Good Earth. It’s on every serious readers must-read list but I’d never gotten around to it. I wasn’t even sure what it was about or where it was set or any of those details that any self-respecting English major such as myself oughta know. Seth, Mariah and I started listening to it late one night while driving home from dipnetting for red salmon on the Kenai Peninsula. Honestly… we mocked the hell out of it and the main character’s horrible, horrible treatment of his wife. But then later, on my own, I kept listening and I fell under the book’s spell and I ended up suggesting it as our first book.

Eight of us came together on Saturday afternoon bearing food for a potluck and ready to make some more dumplings, like the ones Yiyi taught us to make awhile back.

I took the day before the party off to prepare for the book club and planned on leisurely preparing for it. But then my husband up & suggested we drive to Fairbanks and back that day and we didn’t get home till late that night and my leisurely planning and preparing turned into a last-minute early morning dash to the store for anything somewhat Chinese looking to decorate the table. I didn’t too bad — check out the little silver bowls of rice with pearls. Read the book & you’ll understand the significance of pearls… although some party guests, who shall remain nameless, pointed out that should have only been two pearls per bowl.

As more and more people showed up, the table filled up with delicious things like those custard buns from Charlie’s Bakery, shown in the foreground of the photo above. They were still warm!

For the dumplings, there was a salmon filling (shown on the left below) and a vegetable filling (shown on the right). Both were so chockful of things like ginger, green onions, and cilantro that the kitchen smelled divine after Angie and I got done chopping everything up before the party.

Angie made some pork buns for us and steamed them up at the party:

Wendy brought homemade fortune cookies with sarcastic fortunes inside:

She also made the glass plate the fortune cookies are sitting on. We were all totally impressed with her glass creations and one thing led to another and our November craft party is at her house and she’s gonna introduce us to the glass arts and her big kiln.

Once we’d filled up on delicious food — other highlights were Nikole’s vegetarian black-eyed pea soup and Deanna’s cabbage salad — everyone got to work making some dumplings. Warmed sake helped everyone ease into their dumpling-making duties.

Seth spent much of the party on the couch. He loves these parties!

Potstickers are kind of time-consuming to make and they’re not something I’d want to tackle on my own, but Yiyi told us all about how she and her family got together in their home in Queens and chatted each other up and made enough dumplings to last them for months. I was hooked. It’s very meditative to make these when you’re sitting around a big table surrounded by good friends and family, a belly full of food, with some soothing traditional Chinese music playing in the background.

For the veggie dumplings, we combined this recipe and this recipe, just chopping up veggies as they suited us. The spicy soy dipping sauce in that second link is wonderful.

The salmon dumpling recipe is from a book called Fishes & Dishes, about women commercial fishermen in Alaska. It’s really good. The recipe is posted here, although I think we added ginger to ours.

And we used the dough from this recipe, although we found it worked better with two cups of flour and one cup of water.

Next month (October) we traditionally get together to carve pumpkins, so that will be our craft party but we figured we’d go ahead and add a book club element to it as well and chose Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for spooky-ooky reading for the month of October… although I don’t really even want to think about October at this moment.

It’s September…  it’s still summer… it’s September… it’s still summer…lather rinse repeat….


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