Discussion Guides for Book Clubs
Reader’s Guide for The Thousand Dollar Dinner
- Parkinson’s’ luxurious 17-course feast would probably play out a little differently in today's society. If the same event were to take place today, how do you think it would unfold?
- Which of the items on the extensive menu seemed the most appealing? If you could pick one to try, what would it be?
- Many of the dishes on Parkinson’s menu were common in the nineteenth century, but are no longer popular today. Which dish/preparation was the most surprising?
- If you could have one of today’s top celebrity chefs create a 17-course feast for you, who would you choose and why?
- The nineteenth century was considered the “golden age” of wine. Parkinson carefully paired each course with exquisite wines, some rather strange to our modern palates. Which of these pairings seemed the most unusual? Which wine would you most like to try?
- Are there any dishes mentioned in the book you’d like to make on your own?
- While Parkinson’s restaurant did not make it into the twentieth century, Delmonico’s did. Why do you think Parkinson’s did not have the same staying power, even after winning the “culinary duel” that resulted in The Thousand Dollar Dinner?
- So much of our history can be learned through food – what people ate and why, what was in vogue at certain times, how it was prepared, etc. What was your biggest take-away after reading this story and the history of the various foods?
Reader’s Guide for Mrs. Goodfellow: The Story of America’s First Cooking School
- Mrs. Goodfellow's Cooking School was much different from those today whose focus is graduating students with a culinary arts career. What did you think of this early model? What impact did it have on the young women who attended, and cooking in general at that time?
- Cooking preparation took an incredible amount of time and energy in the 19th century. Did this make you think differently about how we cook and prepare food today?
- Did recreating Mrs. Goodfellow's day throughout the book make it easier to imagine what her life might have been like, or was it confusing?
- Even though the author did extensive research, there was still much about Mrs. Goodfellow and her family that could not be determined. What missing details would you have liked to have known?
- Many of the recipes and foods fashionable in Mrs. Goodfellow's day (e.g. terrapin, "catchups," Spanish buns, and Indian pound cake) have since fallen out of favor. Which of these dishes would you most like to try? Which sound unappetizing to modern palates? Why do you think these dishes area no longer popular?
- Were you surprised to learn that Philadelphia had such a fine culinary reputation in the early 1800's? Did this make you think of the city differently?
- Mrs. Goodfellow paid strict attention to quality and detail in her products and teaching, using only pure, wholesome ingredients. How does this compare to the ingredients in many modern foods, and today's preparation methods? Do you think people are now coming back around to this idea of using more natural products to cook and bake with? If so, why?
- While she was alive, Mrs. Goodfellow had an impeccable reputation and was rather famous for her teaching skills and baked delicacies not only in Philadelphia, but up and down the east coast of America. Why do you think she is not well known today? What impact and influence do you think she has had on cooking over the years?