If you know me even the teeniest of bits, you know that my favorite book of all time is John Steinbeck's East of Eden. I think I've read the book four more times, and every time I've read it, new things stand out to me. So back in the winter, when my neighbor Eve invited me to be a part of her book club, I hoped to be able to discuss it with other smart, insightful women, to see if I was crazy, or if, in fact, it really is the best book of all time. (The verdict is in: it is.)
There are so many reasons why this book resonates with me. Far too many to list here. But here are a few:
You are More Than Who You Came From
Two of the main characters in the book, Cal and Aron, struggle with learning that their mother is basically the worst kind of human— a "monster born to human parents" Steinbeck calls her. A murderer, adulterer, manipulator, and sexual predator that preys on humanity's worst tendencies. We aren't doomed to repeat our parents' mistakes. That is, if we choose not to.
You Have a Choice With How You Face Evil
Ignore it. Face it. Struggle with it. But your life is basically defined by how you face evil, both in the world and in yourself.
"Think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man." —Lee, East of Eden p. 302
Friends Have Power In Each Others' Lives
There is no better character in all of literature than Samuel Hamilton. More than once, he comes out of his shell in order to jolt the main character of the book, Adam, back to life and consciousness, emotionally speaking. The way he speaks (and sometimes punches) the truth in love, is profound.
"I can't tell you how to live your life," Samuel said, 'although I do be telling you how to live it. I know that it might be better for you to come out from under your might-have-beens, into the winds of the world. And while I tell you, I am myself sifting my memories, the way men pan the dirt under a barroom floor for the bits of gold dust that fall between the cracks. It's small mining—small mining. You're too young a man to be panning memories, Adam. You should be getting yourself some new ones, so the mining will be richer when you come to age." — East of Eden p. 294
Once the ladies agreed to read all 600 pages, I immediately volunteered to host. I wasn't sure how I was going to throw the party, but I was certain of two things: It was going to be delicious, and it was going to be themed.
Now. I HATE THEMES. Like. With a passion. I never celebrated Halloween growing up. I don't like going to parties where I can't just show up as myself. But, I wasn't going to require our book club to dress up in costume or something stupid like that—all I wanted was for every part of the meal to be meaningful. I found one other blog post out there about this idea, but her meal centered completely on one scene in the book, whereas I wanted it to be a complete overview.
The whole idea started with the idea that I would have a themed cocktail. "Faye's Champagne Surprise" was a "create your own" mix of champagne and a choice of 'poison': Aperol, Orange Juice, or Galliono, dripped into the cocktail using a medicine dropper. Simple, funny, and a great way to get the party started.
The rest of the meal came fairly easily after that. The pot roast recipe was a complete hit and comes from my favorite New York Times Cooking App. I chose to purchase bread and a delicious lemon-lavender pie from Dozen Bakery here in Nashville. The only hitch was Lee's famous "Ng-ka-py." Through internet research, I learned that is nearly impossible to come by. As a substitute, I served Grappa.
So, with that being said, here is the menu! (If you'd like a PDF version, here it is!)
All told, the women were really surprised, and we had an amazing discussion about the book, spurred on by the courses we were eating. I'd love to hear your thoughts! Have you read the book? What do you think about the courses I chose?