The one I belong to is very small; we are lucky to have two people show up. We did have three regulars but one moved to Texas. Neither of the remaining members (one being me) intend to move, though we both are so old we may just disappear one these days. The book club is run by a nearby library and the leader picks the books. We read non-fiction, and this is probably why we are so small. Nevertheless, we mostly really like the books that are selected and with the small attendance here's little chance of anyone monopolizing the conversation. So we basically have no problems. Except....
This month's book was "In Defense of Food: an Eater's Manifesto" by Michael Pollan. The first 100 pages of the book held about as much interest for me as a book of quantum physics. When the first "reminder" e-mail was sent out by our leader I e-mailed her back telling her very honestly that I found the book waaaaayyyyy too boring, and since I wasn't going to read any more of it I would attend but simply keep quiet in the meeting. Quickly she advsied that it got better after the first 100 pages, but alas, I found it not so.
Nevertheless, our discussion meeting turned into an hour of great interest, and fun. Aside from all the nitrates and nitrites and chemicals and processed food and nutritionisms that the author flings around through the book, we had a nice discussion on the global economy (why we grow strawberries in California but find only "grown in Mexico" strawberries in the supermarkets), what the possibilities are of getting all the ethnic and cultural palates to forgo the "fast food" and eat "right" (it will have to be done with education on a one-to-one basis, we decided). Somehow the discussion of Pollan's book moved out of center stage and we began talking about animals. So thinking about both animals and food, I shared the following:
I am in the process of doing some genealogy transcription to be put onto certain websites and most recently came across a story of Indians in Minnesota teaching early 1850's settlers how to cook (and eat) muskrats. It seems there were two ways the Indians did it: one was to prepare them like today's corndogs and stick one end of the wooden stick in the ground near the fire. (The other end of the stick, of course, was where the edibles were). Since muskrats were plentiful, the entire fire was ringed in this manner. Dinner was served. I shared this with the book club members and we all made very appropriate sounds.
The other way muskrat was cooked was decribed thusly:
Many a white settler was asked to partake of what was evidently a feast to the Indians, and it is certain that they all graciously declined the invitation when their eyes beheld the contents of the kettle. On a day when the Indian hunters were considered most fortunate boiled muskrat was on the bill of fare. Just what procedure was gone through in preparing the muskrat for the kettle cannot be said, but it must have been an added delicacy to leave the claws and tail on, for there they were, dangling over the side of the kettle. Potatoes were added to the stew to make it more savory.
We then had to have a thorough discussion of muskrats, because none of the three of us had ever seen one. We threw in opossums and beavers for differentiation and relationship.
But the best part of our discussion came about because we were discussing the eating of goats. (Jerry has eaten goat stew in Nigeria, but he wasn't crazy about it.)
I shared my knowledge of "Fainting Goats."
And our leader shared her knowledge of Moroccan tree goats. I love learning new things, and learning about the tree goats made up for what I found so boring in the month's read.
This three-person book club may not be the most exemplary of what a book club is supposed to be, but I have to tell you that I don't dare miss a meeting; I never know what new thing I'm going to learn!