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Circles of friends

  • Donna Gleckler, right, and Carol Stewart, left, dish out the salad with peppered pears and candied walnuts, while Judy Glenn works on a sauce for a pork roast, during a Friends of Epicurus gathering in Santa Rosa. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / PD)

When cooking club members design their own menus, the Julia-Child wannabes can get as high-falutin' or as lowbrow as they like.

“One of our lunches was from 'The French Laundry Cookbook,'” said Nancy Richards of Santa Rosa, a member of the Friends of Epicurus. “For Maine, we went overboard and had imported lobster, haddock and pink shrimp.”

But for the past 22 years, the 13-member club also has dished up simple fare like soup and salad, Cracker Jacks and hot dogs, and al fresco favorites for “Martha's (Stewart) Perfect Prison Picnic.”

Friends of Epicurus

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Along with lunches and laughter, members enjoy a variety of culinary activities, including cooking classes, field trips and even week-long vacations to destinations around the globe.

“Every few years, we travel somewhere together,” said Joanne Enemark of Santa Rosa, one of the travel planners for Friends of Epicurus. “We've gone to Oaxaca, Santa Fe, New Orleans, Puerto Vallarta and Portland, Maine. In March, we're going to Charleston and Savannah.”

While adventure is great, the main ingredient for the success of these clubs appears to be a shared passion for venturing into the kitchen.

“I love the trips and the women, but it's mostly about the food,” Enemark said. “I like to learn about new ingredients and techniques.”

Michelle Brown of Windsor started her own cooking group five years ago, bringing together a “hodge-podge” of people from her Wine Country circle of friends.

“One of the ladies graduated from Le Cordon Bleu (cooking school), and some didn't even know how to cook,” she said. “You have to like food and want to eventually cook something.”

Friends of Epicurus, which was founded by Kathie Murphy of Santa Rosa, meets September through May, on the second Thursday of the month.

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