Books for cooks: Indianapolis Public Library’s Lawrence Branch offers monthly club for those with culinary interests


Part book club and part potluck, a group of cooking enthusiasts gathers monthly at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Lawrence Branch to share recipes and reviews of cookbooks available through IPL.

Librarian Kris Gould organizes the Culinary Book Club, which she started about half a dozen years ago when she worked at IPL’s North Branch.

“There were a lot of really nice cookbooks coming out that had a lot of pictures and they had stories that went along with them,” she said. “They weren’t just recipe books anymore — they were stories and sharing cultural information and all sorts of things, and I thought it’d be really fun to try a book club with those.”

She called the first iteration the Cookbook Book Club, and unlike a typical book club, members didn’t all read the same book, primarily because there aren’t enough copies to go around.

“With cookbooks, we don’t buy 25 copies of them — we buy maybe four or five,” she said. “So, I decided to do it in a theme. When I first started, it was more like dessert cookbooks or appetizer cookbooks, and then everyone would pick out a cookbook or two they wanted to try.”

While the stories and cultural information enhance a cookbook, the most important part is how well the recipes turn out. The only way to know for sure is to try them and, better yet, share the results with others. Participants were encouraged to make and bring a recipe from their chosen cookbooks, and to give a review of the book.

When Gould moved to the Lawrence Branch in June 2023 and started a similar program, her Cookbook Book Club became the Culinary Book Club because, Gould said, “Cookbook Book Club” is a mouthful.

“I started to sound like a chicken after a while,” she said, laughing.

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A selection of recipes to taste that members brought to the March Culinary Book Club meeting included stuffed dates, lemon-hazelnut cookies, quinoa salad and “power morning muffins.” (Photo by Leila Kheiry)

The Lawrence Branch’s Culinary Book Club’s monthly Saturday meetings kicked off in the fall of 2023 with basic-cooking cookbooks. Other themes have been limited ingredients — five or fewer; cultural and ethnic cookbooks; and cookbooks from different regions of the United States.

The March 9 meeting focused on cookbooks with healthy recipes. Gould used a power morning muffins recipe from “Cook Smart, Eat Well,” a Mayo Clinic publication. Other participants brought stuffed dates, lemon-hazelnut cookies, quinoa salad and biscotti from various cookbooks in the library’s collection.

Abby Rogers said she looks forward to the monthly club meeting, in part because she gets to interact with people she wouldn’t otherwise have met.

“(Also) it’s food that wouldn’t have tried otherwise,” she said. “You’re actually forced to — well, you’re not forced to cook something, but you’re encouraged to cook something instead of just flipping through the books.”

Emily Stuart said she appreciates hearing from others in the group about cookbooks she might not have known about. For example, one member previously brought community cookbooks for everyone to look at — collections of recipes submitted by members of, for example, a church.

Melanie Lannan said she always enjoyed looking at cookbooks, and — like Rogers — appreciates that the club gives her an incentive to try making a recipe from one of them.

In addition to talking about cookbooks and recipes, the group’s general discussion unsurprisingly focused on food — new restaurants to try, different places to buy unique ingredients and, with spring close at hand, gardening.

One more Culinary Book Club meeting is scheduled before the group takes a hiatus until fall. Gould said it’s good to take a breather, especially during the summer months when people are busy with vacations and other activities.

The April meeting will be somewhat less healthy, with the theme focusing on desserts. It is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. April 13 at the IPL Lawrence Branch, 7898 Hague Rd. Registration is encouraged, but drop-ins are welcome.

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Librarian Kris Gould organizes the monthly Culinary Book Club at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Lawrence Branch on Hague Road. (Photo by Leila Kheiry)

Lawrence’s two public libraries

The Indianapolis Public Library’s Lawrence Branch is the original branch for the Lawrence area, and, librarian Kris Gould said, has been one of the busiest in the system for many years.

Last summer, after about 20 years of planning, the Fort Ben Branch opened, adding an option to residents in the Lawrence area.

Whether that will reduce demand at the Lawrence Branch is yet to be known, though. Gould said a few other IPL branches temporarily closed while they move to new facilities or await extensive renovations. Patrons from those areas are coming to Lawrence and some of the other IPL branches in the meantime, so all the branches are busier than usual.

IPL Lawrence Branch is at 7898 Hague Rd., and the Fort Ben Branch is at 9330 E. 56th St.

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