by Liz A.
It's not news that Philly is a great city for eating. Philadelphia is home to exceptionally exiting and delicious food, much of it celebrating the diversity of the people who call this city their home. There's a growing number of women chefs of color and immigrants who are leading the charge, many of whom have shown off their skills in the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center. Later this month, the Culinary Literacy Center is continuing the conversation about women in food in a special evening of conversation and community with the folks behind La Cocina. La Cocina is an incubator kitchen founded in San Francisco. It provides affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance, and access to market opportunities to women of color and immigrant communities.
Join us on Thursday, June 27 for an evening of food, drink, and conversation in celebration of their new cookbook, We Are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of the American Dream. Chef Valerie Erwin will moderate a panel discussion with participants of La Cocina, an incubator for low-income entrepreneurs to build food businesses that reflect the diversity of the immigrant experience. Since 2005, La Cocina has brought together women from communities of color and immigrant communities to showcase food projects that reflect their lived experiences. Representatives from La Cocina will share their stories and invite the audience to think about ways to mobilize and empower Philadelphians to engage in similar work. Cookbooks will be available for purchase.
At the Free Library, aspiring food entrepreneurs can connect with the Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC), housed in our newly renovated Parkway Central Library. The BRIC has extensive resources for people dreaming, planning, starting, or maintaining a small business in Philadelphia. Staff from the BRIC will be on hand at this event to share more about their programs, materials, and resources.
by Suzanna U.
If you’ve ever lived in a city like Philadelphia, you’re familiar with falafel. The vendors on practically every corner have mastered the art of turning chickpeas into a delicious savory meal. In June, celebrate this dish found across the Middle East (and on the street corners of Philly) with us! Falafel can be enjoyed as an everyday savory staple, and to celebrate auspicious events such as Eid al-Fitr on June 3 and International Falafel Day on June 12.
Falafel has a fascinating history – likely invented in Egypt about 1,000 years ago, but some theories place its origin in India in the 6th century, or in British Egypt in the late 19th century. Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Yemen all claim falafel as one of their national dishes, making it quite universal and unquestionably delicious.
Follow this recipe from Cooking the Middle Eastern Way by Alison Behnke and Vartkes Ehramjian to make your own falafel at home, and judge it for yourself!
Falafel (Chickpea Patties) Recipe
Preparation time: 30 minutes (plus overnight soaking and 30 minutes sitting time)
Cooking time: 30 to 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
by Suzanna U.
With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, we wanted to share a classic no-bake, no-heat recipe that can be made by children in honor of this auspicious holiday. Who remembers bringing crispy toast, over-sweetened cereal, and lovingly prepared fruit cups on a tray to their mother on a sleepy Sunday morning? If you want to join in the fun and offer a chance for the kids to take charge in the kitchen, check out this no-cook Raisin Bar Recipe.
The recipe is adapted from a dog-eared copy of Cooking With Young Children, put out by the Delaware Valley Association For the Education of Young Children (now known as First Up) in the 1970s. The Free Library’s Youth Services and Programs has long collaborated with First Up on best practices for early childhood education in the Philadelphia area. And here at the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, our public classes often include opportunities for families to get together in the kitchen – both in our industrial-style kitchen classroom and in home kitchens citywide using recipes we develop here at the library. Taking a cue from Cooking With Young Children, we encourage everyone to use this Teacher’s Success Recipe:
Abundance of Courage
Plenty of Patience
Dash of Humor
Sufficient directions, well understood
Mix thoroughly with an appreciation of children.
Time: Longer than you think.
Temperature: Cool and calm.
Wash hands. Place graham crackers in freezer bag and use hands to crush into crumbs.
In bowl, mix graham crumbs, raisins and marshmallows use large spoon. Pour in cream and stir until crumbs are moist. Spoon mixture into square pan and refrigerate. When cold, slice into small square bars using a butter knife (ask for a grownup to help as needed). Keeps in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Variations: Try chopped dates, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, or roasted pumpkin seeds to the mixture before chilling for added flavor and texture.
Substitutions: You can substitute coconut milk for heavy cream if you wish.
Looking for additional ways to engage children in the kitchen? Check out our cookbooks, for both adults and childrens, for more ideas! For culinary literacy classes, visit freelibrary.org/cook. And THANK YOU to all the mothers around the world who nourish their children year-round and inspire our next generation of eaters to use food and cooking as a vehicle for learning!
by Shayna M.
Summer is right around the corner and the Culinary Literacy Center is looking forward to another season of Summer Thyme Cooks! This year we are offering a week-long library and cooking program for youth entering grades 5-12 , presented by the Nourishing Literacy Kitchen Team.
Summer Thyme students will participate in one full week of programming at Parkway Central Library during the week of July 22, for middle school students, or the week of August 5, for high school students, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
In addition to spending time in our kitchen classroom, each day will include short visits and activities with different library departments and people who work in the library.
Copies of our featured Summer Thyme book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: Youth Readers Edition, will be available for check out before joining us. We will be incorporating this book into activities throughout the week.
Lunch and snacks are provided, and allergies are accommodated. Recipes are youth-friendly, featuring fruits and vegetables, and practical skill-building. At the close of the week, students will receive a bag of produce celebrating their work, in sharing cooking skills and recipes with their loved ones!
We ask that all interested youth complete an application with their caregiver’s involvement:
The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, June 7. We will be in touch with caregivers by Friday, June 15. Spots are very limited. Applications will be processed and prioritized using the following guidelines
Representation from a range of neighborhood libraries: Calling youth from all areas of Philly!
New cooks to this program: If you have not had the opportunity to participate in Summer Thyme Cooks, you are encouraged to apply!
Commitment to be present and on time at Parkway Central Library from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. each day, throughout the entire week: Students and caregivers will be asked to sign a contract. We anticipate a lot of interest in this program. Those who are selected to be involved are ask to be fully involved.
Questions can be sent to Nourishing Literacy Program Manager, Shayna Marmar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This program is offered on a sliding scale of $0 to $75 per student, for the week. Ability to contribute does not impact the application process.
by Lindsay S.
This past week, the Culinary Literacy Center piloted our very first Spanish-language cooking class: Edible Alphabet en Español! In this class, we used the model of Edible Alphabet: Learn English through Cooking to create a hands-on educational experience for adults interested in learning and practicing Spanish. Participants learned new vocabulary and practiced reading, writing, and speaking in Spanish while making black bean empanadas from scratch.
Thanks to the hard work of our language and chef instructors, library staff, and volunteers, the class was a great success. If you are interested in attending an upcoming Edible Alphabet en Español class, you can join the waitlist for our class on May 21 (which is already sold out) or purchase tickets for the June 20 session, which will feature The World Traveling Trunk from Peru.
Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online. SNAP eligible participants are provided with a free ticket, with advance communication. Please call the Culinary Literacy Center at 215-686-5323 to receive one of these reserved tickets, no questions asked.
Both classes will take place at the Culinary Literacy Center, located on the 4th floor of Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street.
Interested in other opportunities for learning and practicing Spanish at the library? Stop by the information session on Spanish Learning Circles tonight, Tuesday, May 7 from 6:00 pm - 6:30 pm, in the Languages and Learning Center, located on the 2nd floor of Parkway Central Library in the Education, Philosophy, and Religion Department or check out other Free Library Spanish-language programs.
For questions about world langauge learning at the library, please email email@example.com.
¡Nos vemos pronto en la biblioteca!
by Kate C.
The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) and Culinary Literacy Center (CLC) will receive a Community Partner Award from Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB) at the Louis Braille Awards luncheon on Friday, May 3.
In its 59th year, the Louis Braille Awards honors individuals and partner organizations that have made significant contributions on behalf of those who are blind or visually impaired. This year’s awards celebrate Accessibility to the Arts in Philadelphia.
Both the LBPH and the CLC have impacted the lives of many of ASB’s clients and their families throughout the partnership between the organizations. In addition to programming in the community and library events, LPBH has instituted an on-site book club for ASB clients, while many ASB clients have participated in CLC programs, gaining lasting skills and knowledge on healthier eating habits.
The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped – now located at 1500 Spring Garden Street – is part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress (NLS), and serves Pennsylvania residents who have difficulty reading due to a physical impairment, a reading disability, or a vision challenge. Library offerings include books in Braille, large print books, screen magnify tools, and screen-reading software.
The Culinary Literacy Center, opened in 2014, is a commercial-grade, state-of-the-art kitchen within the Parkway Central Library on Vine Street that serves as a classroom and dining space for Philadelphians. The CLC encourages a love of food and cooking through a variety of free and ticketed programming. It provides literacy training and fosters the development of problem-solving skills through cooking, supporting healthy lifestyles for people of all ages, and a healthy planet for generations to come.
Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB) is a nonprofit human services organization that promotes independence and self-sufficiency in individuals facing blindness or loss of vision. Building on a history of nearly 145 years, ASB is the Philadelphia area’s largest and oldest provider of education and training services for the visually impaired. ASB fosters individualized, goal-oriented plans for its clients and works to create strong strategic partnerships with organizations within the Greater Philadelphia Area to provide additional resources and opportunities.
The public is welcome to attend the awards ceremony. Tickets can be purcahsed though Eventbrite.
by Suzanna U.
Here at the Culinary Literacy Center, we use food as a lens to see and experience the world around us. Unfortunately, the food system we take part in can also mirror larger societal inequities. For far too many Philadelphia residents young and old, everyday experiences with food include inconsistent access to adequate nourishment. According to a study released in 2018 by Hunger Free America, food insecurity affects 1 in 5 Philadelphians.
Now in its fifth year, our annual Good Food For All Conference welcomes hunger fighters, food educators, people who are facing food insecurity, and advocates for food access on Thursday, May 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The conference includes a wide variety of offerings including food demonstrations, panels, and workshops. Presented by the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and the Free Library of Philadelphia's Culinary Literacy Center, the conference will offer opportunities to learn about eating well on a budget, reducing food waste, self-care for providers, food workers' rights and more.
We are excited to announce this year’s keynote speaker, Neftali Duran, chef, advocate, educator, and organizer, working toward an equitable food system. Neftali is a Salzburg Global Fellow, and co-founder of the I-Collective, an indigenous collective that promotes a healthy food system that values people, traditional knowledge, and the planet over profit. His writing and culinary projects have been featured at the Smithsonian Native American Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the Native American Culinary Association, LongHouse Food Revival, Food52, and the Cooking Channel. He has also been a featured speaker on The Moth Mainstage, Harvard University, Smith College and more. Come learn more about how Neftali’s larger contributions to building equity can impact Philadelphia’s eaters.
by Violet L.
March 20 is the Great American Meatout – an annual challenge to pass up meat for just one day and give the vegetarian (or vegan) life a try. What you choose to eat is a very personal choice, but if you’ve been contemplating making the switch to a plant-based diet and all its benefits, know that you’ll be in very good company! Here’s a whole shopping cart full of vegetarians and vegans – we’ll just collectively call them "Veggies" here – whose work you can explore at the Free Library while you’re chomping down that veggie burger and coconut milkshake.
First we’ve got that most brain-shaped vegetable Cauliflower to represent the Brainy Veggies: primate researcher Jane Goodall, visionary inventor Nikola Tesla, novelist Franz Kafka (who loved animals so much he could imagine life as a giant cockroach, and who once told a fish in an aquarium "Now I can look at you in peace; I don`t eat you any more"), neuroscientist philosopher Douglas Hofstadter, novelist Leo Tolstoy, women's rights activist Susan B. Anthony (the first vegetarian on U.S. currency), playwright George Bernard Shaw (who said "Animals are my friends... and I don't eat my friends"), Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, writer and philospher Voltaire, and a whole slew of ancient thinkers including Pythagoras, Plato, Porphyry, Epicurus, and Virgil. Pythagoras was also famous for telling his followers to abstain from eating beans, since he was convinced that beans sucked the souls of dead people out of the ground with their hollow stems. Thankfully, we now know that’s not the case, so enjoy that hummus!
There are many Musical Veggies out there, but what's especially striking is how many Veggies there are in the hip-hop community. I guess Wu-Tang Clan members RZA, GZA and Method Man, Redman, Murs, KRS-One, M-1 of Dead Prez, Yolandi Visser of Die Antwoord, Russell Simmons, André 3000, and Philly's own Questlove really know their Beets!
Who says Veggies have no sense of humor? These Funny Veggies would go totally Bananas at that idea: stand-up comics Tig Notaro, Sarah Silverman, Steve Martin, Ellen DeGeneres, Simon Amstell, and Russell Brand, musical parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic, cartoonists Scott Adams, Patrick McDonell, and Dan Piraro, and Saturday Night Live alumni Kristen Wiig, Kevin Nealon, and A. Whitney Brown, who once quipped "I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals. I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants."
Aw yeah—everyone loves a perfectly ripe and luscious Avocado, just like how these Foxy Veggies have lots of fans, too: Laverne Cox, Benedict Cumberbatch (who trained for Doctor Strange on an all-vegan fitness plan) Peter Dinklage, Pamela Anderson, tattoo artist Kat Von D, Prince, fitness expert Bianca Taylor, and Richard Gere.
And while we're on the topic, don't pick a fight with these tough-but-tender Prickly Pear Tough Veggies: MMA fighter Mac Danzig, Joan Jett, Russian activist Maria Alyokhina, Rosa Parks, Mike Tyson, vegan bodybuilders Nimai Delgado and John Lewis, and Colin Kaepernick.
Of course every family tree has some bad apples and it's unfortunate that Adolf Hitler, Adam Lanza, John Allen Muhammad, and Charles Manson (if anything he said can be believed) were rotten veggies, but there are so many more Good Apple Virtuous Veggies like Cesar Chavez, Fred Rogers, Coretta Scott King, Alice Walker, Dick Gregory, Al Gore, Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and everybody's favorite person Betty White. It's unclear whether actor and activist Martin Sheen is a Veggie, but we’ll leave it up to you to decide which group his vegan son Charlie Sheen belongs in.
So are you in for the MeatOut? The Free Library's got lots of vegan and vegetarian recipe books to get you started (even some for kids), and if you're interested in more reading, check out Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, Melanie Joy's Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, and Eric Lindstrom's The Skeptical Vegan. So what are you waiting for? Get those vegan tacos cranking and let us know how your MeatOut went in the comments below!
by Christine M.
I have a confession to make—I am that friend who always wants to get a trivia team together on a Tuesday night. I’m also that kid who read Trivial Pursuit cards for fun to see if I could guess the answers. And I ask Santa for those one-a-day calendars of random facts every year.
I love learning about something new, especially in bite-sized tidbits. It gives me endless joy that it is socially acceptable to sit around at a bar with some friends and compete with strangers to see who knows the most about baseball history or French royalty.
Despite this love of all things trivia, however, I’m pretty rubbish at actually knowing the answers to most questions. Throw out an obscure Harry Potter or Broadway musical question, and I’m your gal, but my random knowledge of how many points Bulgaria scored in the 1994 Quidditch World Cup rarely comes in handy in your everyday quizzo session. (It’s 160 points, in case you were wondering... and yes they still lost to Ireland. Quidditch is weird.)
As a self-designated trivia nerd, I’m always on the lookout for ways to beef up my knowledge of all things random. So in honor of National Trivia Day, I’ve gathered some tips on how the Free Library supports the trivia nerd in us all by sharing content from some of the top trivia categories. I also threw in some top trivia questions for a little gamified learning along the way!
(answers at bottom of blog entry)
Globe and Jerusalem are types of what?
From classes in the Culinary Literacy Center to cookbooks to a graphic novel about a family caught between the two warring sides of a civil war among people who have artichoke leaves instead of hair, the Free Library has all your food facts covered.
And if you’re looking to brush up on your food facts while surrounded by some real foodie history, Richmond Library is your place. The first incarnation of the Richmond Library was in 1897 as a "Traveling Library" of 300 books in a flour and feed store that was open two nights a week.
Which planet in our solar system has the most moons?
This is always one of my worst trivia categories. I swear I studied science in school, but this subject seems to have been the first thing that left my mind after 12th grade. If you’re anything like me, then the Free Library is going to be a great resource for you, starting with these books on our largest planet and our A Science Minute blog posts!
What is the world’s largest fish?
From Grip, Charles Dickens’s pet raven (and indirect inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven!) to birding backpacks (filled with a pair of binoculars, maps, and a field guide) available at multiple neighborhood libraries, the Free Library is home to some unusual ways to get your animal fix. Interested in some artistic animal inspiration? Visit the dragon sculpture by Stewart Zane Paul at Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library, as well as a mural of medieval knights and a variety of animals, painted by Richard Watson.
In Back to the Future, what does Marty McFly's license plate say?
All those movie trivia questions (or my favorite, audio clips of a movie where you have to name the title!) are where I shine at quizzo, but I can always use a refresher. Luckily, you don’t have to leave your house for this one. With your Free Library card, you have access to 30,000 documentaries and classic movies through the Kanopy streaming service and movies/television shows (along with audiobooks, ebooks, music, and graphic novels) with Hoopla.
Who was the 'mad monk' of Russian history?
Though I’m a big nerd for Revolutionary War and World War II history, I also love digging into the history of where I’m living. Parkway Central Library hosts the region’s largest collection of newspapers from the Philadelphia metropolitan area, with over 400 newspapers on microfilm dating back to 1720. If you’re interested in more contemporary history, the newly opened At These Crossroads: The Legacies of Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois exhibition in Parkway Central’s West Gallery is worth a visit.
What is Paul McCartney's middle name?
If your trivia knowledge gap lives in music-land, try becoming a musician and learn by doing! Parkway Central Library’s Music Department has instruments (from guitars to steel drums) available to borrow for free with your library card.
Which player was the last to hit at over a .400 average in Major League Baseball?
With all the digital ways to read books and gather facts right at our fingertips, sometimes it’s nice to remember that the resources at the Free Library reach far beyond the books on the shelves (or the computer). Our staff have a bountiful source of information on so many topics, and they’re always willing to share. For a taste of the vast knowledge the Library staff holds, check out the Knowledge Base online, or jump right to the sports facts.
Want a shortcut to the ultimate trivia knowledge? We have you covered there too.
Did I miss your favorite quizzo category? Are you also a hopeless trivia nerd? Let me know in the comments!
by Paul M.
Ever wonder what to do with that slightly wrinkled bell pepper sitting in your produce drawer, or that Tupperware of cooked rice? Have you ever felt an overpowering sense of humdrum eating, heated up leftovers? One’s first instinct is to simply throw it away for the sake of saving precious energy thinking about what to do with it next. What you are experiencing is a condition I like to call "Leftovers Syndrome," a sense of not knowing how to prepare or utilize leftover foods.
Extreme cases happen around Thanksgiving.
Do not be alarmed. I am here to alleviate some of your problems, as November 23 just happens to be National Leftovers Day! This unofficial holiday has been designated to be the day after Thanksgiving. Rightly so, it has become the day of creative ingenuity and boundless possibilities. Your friends at the Culinary Literacy Center have a few ideas that we would like to share with you.
Probably the biggest food group in this category, they are not the most sought after option on the table (which they should be, but I digress). Soup is usually the number one answer of transforming them into a new dish. I have a family tradition of making Thanksgiving soup every year, and even make my own stock. Any scraps from produce preparation can be used to make a vegetable stock. Let it simmer for hours, drain, and use or cool immediately.
Leftover rice can be a wonderful asset to any meal, but it can also be a giant question mark. My rule of thumb is that leftover rice is just begging to be made into fried rice. When you combine leftover vegetables, meat, herbs, spices, soy sauce, and crack an egg—voilà, you have a new dish! To be even more creative, I made fried rice stuffed bell peppers. I had some leftover green bell peppers and decided to kick it up a notch.
Mac & Cheese
I would personally eat mac & cheese any day of the week. I would also gladly eat it in its entirety. However, it doesn’t hurt to repurpose it occasionally. I am a firm believer of turning most leftovers into sandwiches. Parents out there: kids love sandwiches—grilled cheeses to be exact. Do grilled mac & cheese sandwiches sound great? I think so. I had left over sourdough bread and I buttered some slices, added cheddar cheese, a spoonful of mac and cheese, more cheddar, and top with the other bread slice butter-side up. Heat a pan over medium heat, cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted. Boom!
Beans & Legumes
Beans or other legumes are not the cool kids of the party, but they are the ones you should pay attention to. These protein-packed ingredients can make fabulous meals. My favorite is turning them into variations of hummus. You could also include them in a weeknight pasta dinner. Big tubular pasta, like rigatoni, is the perfect bed for sautéed greens, a quick butter and wine sauce, those leftover beans, and parmesan cheese.
Stuffing (or Dressing)
Everyone enjoys the carb sidedish made entirely of bread. Growing up we called it dressing, not stuffing, but it can be used similarly. The best way to use leftover stuffing is to make it into waffles. If you have a waffle maker at home, this can be your next culinary achivement. After combinging eggs and a little stock to the leftover stuffing, you can pack the mixture into your greased waffle maker and let it cook. For dressing eaters, it is the same process. However, be careful not to incorporate too much liquid in the mixture since it tends to have a higher moisture content than normal stuffing.
Turn that cranberry sauce, jelly, or whatever you call it into a wonderful sandwich spread. Mix cranberry sauce with some mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip!) and you've got yourself a new and improved sandwich spread. Better yet, you could turn the cranberry sauce into muffins!
The juggernaut of the table, this bird is my favorite ingredient to work with. From turkey salad, turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, turkey poutine, or even turkey fried rice, this bird can be transformed numerous ways. My favorite is making a turkey and vegetable frittata. Nothing is better than making a wonderful brunch after Thanksgiving.
Don't forget about the unltimate Thanksgiving sandwich, piled high with turkey, stuffing (or dressing), and a wondefrul cranberry mayo!
H a p p y H o l i d a y s !