*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Great Gatsby, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most renown work. Maybe you know The Great Gatsby from high school English, where it’s often required reading (gasp!–If you’re in high school English now, hi there! Don’t worry, you’ll survive!). Anyway, maybe that’s been a while…but you have a vague memory of parties and wealth along with Gatsby’s doomed obsession for a past love.
Or, maybe due to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby, you are more recently familiar with the story. Either way, you might not have read the book as an adult. I know I hadn’t.
Let me encourage you if it’s been a while or especially if you’ve crossed into mid-life, the place where we flounder between the tug of the future and the pull of the past, to consider rereading the novel. The Great Gatsby is a timeless book that can be read every few years and mined for new insights. It’s ultimately a warning against the pursuit of wealth unrestrained by morality. But, it’s more than that, too.
Anyone who has lived a little, who has battled the strain towards the future while longing for the past, can relate to Gatsby and the narrator Nick Carraway. In fact, the book ends with this quote from Nick Carraway:
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther….And one fine morning–
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
It’s a bittersweet story of misplaced affections all around full of profound lessons and a wake up call. If your book club hasn’t read it, I highly recommend you consider it. With a little wisdom under your belt, the book takes on new shades and hues you may have missed from an earlier reading.
If your book club picks The Great Gatsby to read, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for your meeting! So if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Great Gatsby:
When Nick Carraway moves East to try his hand at bond sales and to stake his claim of the American fortune, he realizes that no one seems to have a larger slice of the pie than his mysterious neighbor, Gatsby. What appears as lavish wealth slowly begins to evaporate into nothing more than an illusion as Nick grows closer to Gatsby and begins to discover Gatsby’s desperation to grab the attention of the unattainable Daisy. As Gatsby’s doomed love for Daisy and the greed and immorality of everyone involved slowly leads to destruction, Nick questions everything he understood about the American dream.
For The Great Gatsby recipe:
Okay, I admit a 1920s flapper party is just plain fun. Who doesn’t love to dress up in pearls and feathers? While I tend to agree with this article from The Atlantic which basically says that anyone who actually read The Great Gatsby would never throw a Gatsby-themed party, I do think book clubs may be the exception. So, dress up, enjoy, throw a lavish party if you want because you know it’s fleeting, even though it’s so much fun.
When researching the food in the book, I found several in addition to the lemon cakes. Here are a some food ideas for The Great Gatsby:
- Oranges and Lemons – The mountain of fruit that arrives before every party – Chapter 3 (You can make any fruity drink with these)
- Or you can make a Daisy Blossom! — Originally called the Orange Blossom, it was a drink popular during the Prohibition
- Hors d’oeuvres- Spiced baked ham, pastry pigs and turkeys are mentioned- From Gatsby’s parties – Chapter 3
- Pig sausages and mashed potatoes – Nick’s lunch in the City – Chapter 3
- A succulent hash (sausage, potatoes, onions) – Meeting Meyer Wolfsheim – Chapter 4
- Mint Juleps – The Plaza Hotel – Chapter 7
- Fried Chicken and Ale – Daisy and Tom conspire – Chapter 7
- Any gin drink – Throughout the book
I ultimately decided to make lemon cakes and tea because I wanted anyone who might be reading The Great Gatsby to be able to partake (including high school students). However, there are several alcoholic beverages in the list above, if your group desires them.
I also liked the significance of the lemon cakes and tea. They are served in Chapter 5 when Gatsby arranges to meet Daisy Buchannan at Nick’s house. It is where they reunite. It is the moment Gatsby has been working towards for years.
In the scene, the cakes and tea are not good enough. Gatsby scrutinizes them, wishing Daisy had instead walked through the door at one of his lavish parties, but accepts the cakes reluctantly. They represent unmet expectations and missed marks that continue throughout the book. A lemon cake is perfectly delightful until compared to an outlandish buffet.
This recipe for lemon cakes is also a sour and sweet delight–just bittersweet enough to enjoy while mourning the failure of Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship. The cakes are fluffy and delicious with just a hint of lemon and the glaze is sweet with a tang that makes you crave more.
These beauties were made using a cupcake pan, but you could easily use miniature bundt pans if desired. Just increase the cooking time a minute or two and test them with a toothpick for doneness. The cake mix will yield around 18 cupcakes and the glaze will cover somewhere around a dozen cupcakes. It just depends on how generous you are! If you use it all, just whip up some more!
If your book club is looking for food ideas for The Great Gatsby, look no further!
The Great Gatsby Lemon Cakes
- Cupcake Pan
For the cakes:
- 1 Lemon Cake Mix
- 1 Lemon Pudding Mix small box (4 ½ cups)
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup milk
- 4 eggs
- 1-2 lemons optional garnish
For the glaze:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 7 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp melted butter
For the cakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the lemon cake mix, lemon pudding mix, oil, milk and eggs together until smooth.
- Thoroughly grease or spray a cupcake pan to prevent sticking unless you prefer to use liners.
- Fill the cupcake cups ¾ of the way full with the cake mix.
- For regular cupcakes, bake for 12-15 minutes, testing the cupcake with a toothpick until no batter is shown on the toothpick.
- *For mini cupcakes, bake 8-10 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely.
- Turn out on a clean surface to prepare for glazing.
For the glaze:
- Mix the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and melted butter in a bowl. Whisk until the powdered sugar has dissolved and you have a smooth, glue-like consistency.
- Pour generously over cooled cupcakes.
- Will glaze about 1 dozen cupcakes. Adjust if more is needed.
- If desired, top with fresh lemon slices for garnish and decoration.
The Great Gatsby Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- The book begins with a quote from Nick Carraway’s father. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” In what ways do you think this idea of privilege and understanding rings true in the story and in what ways does it ring false?
- Why do you think that Tom insists on introducing Nick to Myrtle even though Nick is Daisy’s cousin? How do you think this action speaks to Tom’s character and foretells the ending?
- At the first party Nick Carraway attends at Gatsby’s mansion, he notes that all of the couples are arguing by the end of the night. Later, he goes on to explain that people come to Gatsby’s without knowing or caring to know him, but eager to partake of his alcohol and hospitality. The book’s themes of greed and dissatisfaction continue throughout. Talk about the other examples of this within the book and how each of the main characters plays into the idea that the relentless pursuit of wealth without morals leads to destruction.
- Nick Carraway states that he has one fault—honesty. Do you believe him? In the end, Jordan accuses him of not being honest. Do you think his character stands?
- Jay Gatsby changes his name and his lot in life to become a person he believes he has the right to be and a person he believes Daisy will love. He resorts to any measure to become this person, including crime. When he finally reaches out to her, he is asking her to love the version of himself that even he has abandoned. Discuss this. What or who exactly do you believe Daisy does love—the old Jay, the new Jay, Tom, money, herself?
- Discuss the character of Jordan Baker who seems to symbolize youth, innocence, and recklessness. She is often described as “golden.” Nick relays a story where she was accused of cheating but the scandal dissolved. What part do you think she plays in the overall story arc and what does she bring to the table that the other characters don’t?
- Who do you think is at fault in the story? Why? For example, do you believe Daisy would have toyed with the idea of running away with Gatsby (and in effect toyed with Gatsby’s heart) if Tom hadn’t been cheating? Do you think Gatsby should have followed Daisy to New York and lived across from her? Or can Daisy be blamed for turning against her heart and marrying Tom in the first place? Etc.
- Why do you think Daisy stays with Tom in the end? Nick Carraway oversees them talking at the kitchen table after her “affair” with Gatsby is exposed and describes them sitting together this way: “There was an unmistakeable air of natural intimacy about the picture, and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together.” What do you think happened that night between Daisy and Tom?
- After Nick Carraway struggles and fails at finding many people for Gatsby’s funeral, he describes the East as an El Greco painting of a drunken women on lying on a stretcher. “Gravely the men turn in at a house–the wrong house. But no one knows the woman’s name, no one cares.” He contrasts this with warm memories of close friends back west, just before he tells the reader he has decided to go back home. Do you think Nick Carraway will find what he’s looking for back home? Is he any less delusional than Gatsby at the idea of chasing the elusive past?
- If this is the first time you’ve read The Great Gatsby, what were your thoughts? If this is a reread for you, what new insights did you gain?
Have you read The Great Gatsby? What did you think? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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