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book club members at buffet

Members of the monthly South Sioux City Public Library Cookbook Book Club are encouraged to bring a cookbook, a recipe as well as a prepared dish to be sampled by everyone.

SOUTH SIOUX CITY -- When Josh Hodgins was younger, he didn't ask his mom to buy him the newest video game.

The now 14-year-old Sioux City boy asked for something much more practical: a brand-new souffle pan.

"I was really into ('The Barefoot Contessa') Ina Garten a few years ago," Josh said. "I wanted to make her spinach souffle and knew I needed a souffle pan."

Laura Hodgins couldn't help but smile when her son relayed the story.

"Don't know how it happened, but I'm raising a family of gourmet chefs," she said. 

Indeed, Josh -- best known for making elaborate cheesecakes -- and brother James -- best known for making savory comfort food -- have become regulars at the monthly cookbook book club held at the South Sioux City Public Library.

At 6:30 p.m. every second Thursday of the month, area cooks are encouraged to bring in a cookbook, a recipe and a finished dish that will be sampled by fellow book club members.

For the meeting taking place on Sept. 13, the theme will be sauces and salsas. During the meeting held Aug. 9, it was all about foods containing fruit.

That's why Josh Hodgins made a blueberry cheesecake while his brother James Hodgins, 17, made cheesy zucchini boats topped with cheese, bacon and corn.

"A lot of people don't know that zucchini, like tomatoes and cucumbers, are fruits, not vegetables," James said, unwrapping a platter full of food.

ssc buffet

Fruit-filled meals were the theme of the Cookbook Book Club, held Aug. 9, at the South Sioux City Public Library. Among the dishes being sampled were desserts featuring  strawberries, a blueberry cheesecakes as well as pork served with a fruity Caribbean salsa. 

"I don't know if zucchini is a fruit or a vegetable," youth librarian Odessa Cooley said, smiling. "All I know is that your dish looks amazing."

Indeed, a buffet table set up inside the library's Redbird Cafe was made up of food that looks and tasted amazing.

Book club members made such memorable meals featuring pork served with peaches, as well as pork made zesty with Caribbean spices. Keeping with that month's theme, many entrees were desserts featuring summertime berries.

Club regular Marycae Madden dazzled attendees with a traditional Danish apple cake made with applesauce and breadcrumbs.

"Geneology is one of my hobbies and I love making recipes that reflect different cultures," the Sioux City woman said, removing plastic wrap from her dessert.

So, was Madden's Denmark-inspired sweet treat worth the trip? Not according to its maker.

"I've made my own applesauce from other recipes in the past," she said. "This recipe was probably more work than it was worth." 

Madden didn't mind. She just likes to cook.

"Since my daughter moved away, I don't get many opportunities to cook anything new and ambitious," she said. "That's why I enjoy coming to the cookbook book club. I get to spread my wings a bit."

Cooley said such monthly get-togethers have become a pleasant throwback to an earlier time.

"We may dress up the cookbook book club but it's no different than a pot luck and it's no different than when a family would sit down together for a meal," she said. "It's fun that our event is catching on because who doesn't enjoy a good home-cooked meal?"

Especially when some of the dishes are being prepared by either James or Josh Hodgins.

"I already know what I'm going to make for next month's book club on sauce," Josh said. "I'll make a cheesecake with a caramel syrup." 

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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