• 17

    Get Your Kids in the Kitchen this Summer at the Free Library!

    by Jamie B.

    What are your kids planning to do this summer? If they want to learn to make pasta, pizza, and other yumtastic dishes from scratch, they should apply to attend Summer Thyme Cooks at the Culinary Literacy Center – a fresh approach to learning about cooking, collaboration, and cost.

    Summer Thyme Cooks is a FREE, four-part summer cooking program for kids and teens entering grades 5-12. In four weekly hands-on classes throughout August 2018, students learn basic cooking skills, including how to read a recipe, how to prepare seasonal fruits and vegetables, and how to stay safe in the kitchen. Food is meant to be shared, so every Summer Thyme Cooks class ends with a family-style meal. Students go home each week with a new recipe and a grocery bag filled with healthy, fresh, budget-conscious ingredients so they can cook with their families!

    Space is limited! Apply online or pick up a paper application in the Children’s Department or the Teen Center in Philbrick Hall at Parkway Central Library. The deadline to apply is June 19, 2018.

    Parents will be notified of their child’s selection by the end of June. Classes will take place at the Culinary Literacy Center, located on the 4th floor of the Parkway Central Library at 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

    For other questions and information, please call 215-686-5323.

    children's programs Teens culinary literacy summer

  • 7

    Cooking with Banana Peels? Chef Massimo Bottura Presents Bread Is Gold

    by Paul M.

    In the culinary world, Massimo Bottura is a big deal. With his extensive list of accolades and awards, and his renowned restaurant Osteria Francescana in Italy, Bottura is a culinary force to be reckoned with. Bottura, however, is taking some time away from his restaurant and focusing on a new revolutionary culinary project highlighting two global issues: food waste and food insecurity.

    In 2015, Bottura started Refettorio as part of the nonprofit organization Food for Soul, which he founded with his wife Lara Gilmore. Refettorio translates to "rebuild or restore," and Bottura has taken abandoned buildings and turned them into beautiful dining establishments to feed the hungry with ingredients entirely derived from food waste. Food waste is a major global issue as approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Hunger has continued to be an issue affecting over 800 million people around the world. Over 19 percent of residents in Philadelphia alone are food insecure according to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.

    With help from some of the best chefs in the world, Bottura opened the first Refettorio outside Milan. He worked with talented artists and designers to transform an old theatre. They created a space for patrons who are less fortunate to have a culinary experience they will never forget. Bottura realized a typical soup kitchen operation didn’t seem right and wanted meals served in courses. With the success of the Milan location, he has opened three more locations in London, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris.

    Bottura recently talked about his new cookbook, Bread is Gold: Extraordinary Meals with Ordinary Ingredients, at Drexel University as part of their annual Philly Chef Conference. This cookbook is a collection of recipes from over 50 chefs who have worked with Bottura at Refettorio. The recipes all utilize food waste. One example of this is turning banana peels into chutney. The title, Bread Is Gold, comes from a childhood memory of Bottura's: he would eat old bread with warm milk and coffee for breakfast. That memory inspired one of his signature dishes, Il pane è oro, and the essence of the cookbook. It is definitely something to have in your cookbook collection and we even have it in ours, as Bread Is Gold is now available in our catalog!

    In the meantime, think twice about trashing those banana peels.

    culinary literacy

  • 27

    Good Food for All: Fight Food Insecurity at the Free Library of Philadelphia

    by Administrator

    By: Nicole Gregoire, CPSD Public Health Intern

    1 in 5 Philadelphians suffer from food insecurity. Come learn what food insecurity means and how it’s affecting your community at the fourth annual Good Food for All conference, presented by the Culinary Literacy Center and the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger on May 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Parkway Central Library. This conference is open to everyone and we welcome you to come join us and learn to be a hunger fighter.

    Over 1.5 million Pennsylvanians are food insecure. Philadelphia County has the highest overall food insecurity in the entire state. This means that those impacted are unable to consistently provide enough food for themselves and their families, which hinders their ability to support an active, healthy life. In 2016, 12.3% (15.6 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some point during the year. You likely know someone that has lived with food insecurity.

    Good Food For All will feature inspiring talks from individuals who are fighting hunger and food insecurity in big ways! We are honored that Chinwe Onyekere, Associate Administrator at Lankenau Medical Center, will give the keynote address at this year’s conference. Onyekere’s work has focused on reducing healthcare disparities and identifying innovative ways to improve healthcare delivery. One of these innovations is the Deaver Wellness Garden, an organic garden on-site at Lankenau. Fresh produce from the farm makes its way to year-round farmers’ markets for patients, visitors, and employees. This bounty of nutritious food is also used to address the food insecurity and chronic disease management needs of the Medical Center’s most vulnerable patients, and is donated to local food banks.

    In addition to Onyekere, Councilwoman Helen Gym will speak at this year’s conference as part of a panel discussion on the new Farm Bill. As chair of City Council’s Children and Youth Committee, Councilwoman Gym has won historic victories for public schools, expanded pre-kindergarten programs, and invested in infrastructure safety. She established new city funds to address youth homelessness as well as a legal defense fund for tenants facing wrongful evictions. She is a leading national voice for immigrant rights and is a co-sponsor of a municipal ID card program and a resolution supporting the Adoptee Citizenship Act.

    Register today and join Philadelphians who are committed to improving access in their own lives and the lives of those around them. There will be presentations from Philadelphia area organizations that fight food insecurity, including:

    The Good Food for All conference is open to the general public and is for people who are SNAP eligible, hunger fighters, food educators, and advocates for food access, as well as anyone wanting to learn more about food insecurity in the Philadelphia area. The conference will feature food demonstrations, workshops, and panels on eating well on a budget, campus hunger, youth-led programs, family meals, the Farm Bill, and more!

    Registration is now open and includes coffee, box lunch, and a sweet treat, which have been generously provided by La Colombe, Sweetgreen, and Shake Shack. Visit to register.

    culinary literacy conferences

  • 9

    Buzzing about Cookbooks!

    by Liz A.

    The Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center is coming up on four years of having our kitchen doors open! One of the most frequent questions we get is, What's your favorite cookbook? As if we could respond to that with one simple answer! It depends on what time of year it is, what mood we're in, whether or not we're hungry, what's available at the farmers' market, if it's a workday or weekend, and who's eating. I recently asked our staff and after everyone calmed down about the horror of having to narrow it down to just a few, read on below to see what we came up with.

    Jamie, who makes recommendations to the Parkway Central's Julie Dannenbaum Cookbook Collection, loves the classics. Her list includes The Joy of Cooking, Edna Lewis's beautiful narrative prose and recipes in The Taste of Country Cooking, and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food.



    Suzanna reaches for newspapers and magazines when she's looking for inspiration, including the simple but elegant Cooks Illustrated and the seemingly limitless archives of the New York Times Cooking section







    Paul, currently studying Culinary Arts and Science, reaches for Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem, Marcus Samuelsson's book that's part autobiography, part cookbook.








    For me, my copy of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is stained with food splatters and has copious notes in the margins. Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem is also as delicious to read from as to cook its recipes.








    Shayna is our resident cookbook afficianado, with over 600 in her personal collection which she's been building since she was 13. She was hard pressed to name her favorites, but narrowed it down to new loves Bread is Gold: Extraordinary Meals with Ordinary Ingredients by Massimo Bottura with recipes from star chefs, Anna Lappe's Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, and Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, which is so well loved, she could recite it from memory.


    Being such lovers of culinary tomes, we are thrilled to bits to be hosting three Cookbook Superstars at our upcoming Cookbook Buzz on April 16 at the Parkway Central Library. Ruth Reichl, former editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, and bestselling author of My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life (and Shayna's favorite, Comfort Me with Apples), Julia Collin Davison, host of America's Test Kitchen and co-author of Cooking at Home With Bridget & Julia, and Jodi Moreno, a natural foods chef, photographer, and author of More With Less: Whole Food Cooking Made Irresistibly Simple.

    Presented by the Culinary Literacy Center in partnership with Borrow.Read.Repeat., the evening includes conversations with the authors, a sneak peak at cookbooks that are hot off the presses, and some delicious swag including a free recipe book from Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year, paired with the perfect audiobook.

    We hope to see you there—we'll be the ones nerding out over our favorite cookbooks!

    What are some of your flavor-ite recipes and cookbooks? We'd love to hear your picks—leave a comment below!

    Events at the Library Parkway Central author events culinary literacy

  • 8

    #OneBookWednesday: The Many Flavors of One Book

    by Julie B.

    In Jacqueline Woodson’s books, cooking traces the roots and routes of families and memories. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) joined with the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center this week to celebrate the historical flavors of these roots and routes.

    Patrick Glennon, communications officer at HSP, took the time to share some historical cooking connections with us.

    Everyone loves a good cookbook.

    Cookbooks serve a practical purpose in our daily lives while conveying scientific and artistic knowledge, from the impact of different cooking methods to the perfect plating technique.

    Among the ingredient lists and measurements, you can also trace U.S. cultural histories.

    The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) possesses a number of fascinating cookbooks in its collection that chart the development of the culinary arts in the U.S. and document the rich variety of cultural influences that have made U.S. cooking so distinct. From Martha Washington’s personal cookbook to Ellen Emlen’s instructive Civil War-era collection of recipes, HSP is home to many culinary-related materials that connect the public with its heritage through food. Just last week, the organization added scores of new cookbooks to its collections, including one dating from the 1600s.

    The exciting historical and cultural nature of cooking is why HSP was pleased to co-sponsor two events with the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center (CLC) as part of the One Book, One Philadelphia season, both featuring acclaimed chef and historian Michael W. Twitty.

    Twitty’s work demonstrates that cooking is both fun and educational. His Country Captain demonstration at the CLC underscored the wide array of cultural influences that informed African American cooking in the South, where South Asian curries intersected with the common ingredients and cooking styles of plantation kitchens. Twitty also spoke about the food traditions that inspire contemporary African American cuisines, joined by scholar Dr. Jessica Harris and local chef and food writer Valerie Erwin.

    During the Great Migration—when approximately 6 million African Americans relocated from the South to urban centers in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West—highly original cuisines emerged from the cultural fusion and traveled across the country, influencing the cooking practices and tastes of inhabitants from Philadelphia to Seattle.

    Exploring the origins of U.S. cooking reveal how the nation’s history truly belongs to all of us. The diversity that led to the development of such imaginative and delicious fare represents the vibrancy and relevance of history today. What better way is there to make history come alive, after all, than reprising an appetizing meal drawn from our collective past?

    **There's one week left of One Book! Check back next #OneBookWednesday for some final One Book food-for-thought and reflection. For a full list of events still to come, visit our online calendar.**

    One Book One Philadelphia culinary literacy

  • 5

    7 Tips to a Healthy National Nutrition Month

    by Katie D.

    March is National Nutrition Month.

    Here are 7 Healthy Tips to put your best fork forward...

    1. Include a variety of healthy foods in your diet, from all of the food groups on a regular basis.
    2. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
    3. Be mindful of portion sizes.
    4. Limit added sugar and salt.
    5. Use MyPlate as a guide. 
    6. Use good food safety practices
    7. Visit your nearest neighborhood library to check out a book and learn more!

    Some health event highlights at neighborhood libraries throughout March include:

    If you can't make it to one of the above events, you can still browse and borrow plenty of nutrition-filled titles from our catalog that are sure to spice up your cooking!

    culinary literacy Health

  • 5

    Heart Health at the Free Library

    by Katie D.

    February is American Heart Month, so it’s a great time to learn about making heart-healthy choices every day and to use your neighborhood library to help improve your heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States—but it is also one of the most preventable.

    What you can do to improve your heart health:

    1. Make heart-healthy choices
      Eat healthy. Be active. Maintain a healthy weight. Quit smoking. Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Manage your stress.
    2. Know your family history and your risk factors.
      Everyone is at risk for heart disease, but some risk factors and family history of heart disease will put you at higher risk.
    3. Have regular check-ups.
      Find a health center near you. Look into free health screenings in your neighborhood.

    How can the Free Library help you with these goals?
    We have plenty of helpful resources to help you get started or maintain your heart-healthy habits:

    And last but not least, attend one (or all!) of these Free Library health workshops:


    culinary literacy Health

  • 8

    Meatless Mondays at South Philadelphia Library

    by Katie D.

    If you walk into the South Philadelphia Library meeting room on a Monday afternoon between 4:00 - 6:00 p.m., you’ll find a group of children, teenagers, and adults chopping, grating, and peeling fresh veggies to learn about vegan cooking from Chef Char Nolan. Nolan is a plant-based vegan with tons of enthusiasm for converting your favorite meals into meatless option. During her weekly Meatless Mondays program, she uses the South Philly Library’s Charlie Cart to give everyone hands-on experience making the week’s recipes. The Charlie Cart is a mobile kitchen provided by the Culinary Literacy Center through a partnership with Dietz & Watson to support the Free Library of Philadelphia’s efforts to advance literacy through food and cooking.

    On the menu back in December: vegan chili (recipe below!), with toppings including guacamole, and hot cocoa. As people walk in, they’re put to work chopping and grating. Char asks a participant to read the label on the chili sauce—no fat, low sodium. Bingo! Three teenagers man the hot plate together to start the chili, taking turns stirring.

    While the chili simmers on the hot plate, we move onto the hot cocoa recipe. This vegan hot cocoa is made with soy milk, cocoa powder, dates, and vegan marshmallows. We use the cart’s Vitamix blender to blend these ingredients and heat them up. While it’s mixing up, Char asks for a volunteer to read the label on the container of dates. She teaches the class that dates are a sweetener but also contain vitamins and iron, unlike the white sugar you buy in a bag. Our first two taste testers think it isn’t sweet enough, so we add a few more dates and try again. Everyone loves it!

    Next up, the toppings bar! We’re making "lazy guacamole" today, which means adding an extra avocado or two to store-bought guacamole. We also have hummus, diced cherry tomatoes, and chips for dipping.

    The chili smells amazing and more library patrons are walking by to look in the windows of the meeting room. Once Chef Char starts serving up her vegan chili, another half-dozen people walk in and line up. Everyone adds their favorite toppings and then we talk around the table about what to make next week.

    Meatless Mondays challenges people to think about eating a plant-based dinner one night each week. Going meatless once a week can help reduce your risk of chronic, preventable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Started by Sid Lerner and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 2003, the Meatless Mondays movement encourages people to make meatless and vegetarian meals part of your day-to-day life. Americans on average eat 270 pounds of meat per person per year. Starting with Meatless Monday, skipping meat one day a week is good for you and better for the planet. It can also be good for your wallet! Why Monday? Studies show that you’re more likely to adopt healthy behaviors on Monday than any other day of the week. It’s the first day of a new week, and many view it as a fresh start to their healthy living goals. 

    Wondering how to get started? Start your week off right with a Meatless Mondays class at the South Philadelphia Library on Mondays at 3:45 p.m. Upcoming dates include January 22 and 29 and February 5, 12, and 26.

    You can also check out this booklist that can help to inspire your own Meatless Mondays!

    Now to make your own South Philly Chili at home!



    • 5-6 small carrots, grated
    • 4 stalks of celery, diced
    • 1 red onion, diced
    • 2 cups of cubed, fresh mushrooms
    • 2 green peppers, finely diced
      (Saute these veggies in a large pot, using ¼ cup of water, over a medium flame.)
    • 4 thawed veggie burgers, crumbled
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon Chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • ½ cup of nutritional yeast
    • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
    • 2 cans of tomato paste, and 12 ounces of water
    • 3 cans of beans (Any type. We used black, pinto, and kidney) Rinse the beans off with water, to remove any excess sodium.

    Once the vegetables are sautéed and soft, add tomatoes, spices, and stir well.

    Add crumbled veggie burgers and nutritional yeast. Stir and simmer for 45 minutes on a low heat.

    Serve with brown rice.

    culinary literacy Health

  • 24

    The Final Word with Michael Solomonov

    by Lo I.

    The Israel-born, Pittsburgh-raised chef is now claimed by Philadelphia as a favorite culinary son. As executive chef and co-owner of Zahav, a restaurant of international renown that celebrates Israeli cuisine, Michael Solomonov has "walked gingerly" into "the age of the rock-star chef/entrepreneur," says Philadelphia Magazine. A four-time James Beard Award winner, he co-owns Philadelphia’s Federal Donuts, Dizengoff, Abe Fisher, Goldie, and the philanthropic Rooster Soup Company, which donates 100 percent of its profits to support Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens. Together with business partner Steven Cook, co-founder of CookNSolo Restaurant Partners, they penned the cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking and the new culinary chronicle Federal Donuts: The (Partially) True Spectacular Story, which tells the story of one of Philadelphia’s now famous food pairings: fried chicken and donuts.

    What role have libraries played in your life? What role do you think they play in our 21st-century world?
    With the way that we catalog our lives constantly in flux, libraries are that rock-steady resource for every age. They’re the backbone. And especially now that I have young kids, they’re an indelible part of our community.

    Fried Chicken and donuts is a delicious, some say genius, pairing. What food and drink pair best with curling up in your favorite reading nook?
    Ideally, I would crush a couple bourekas [baked filled pastries with flaky dough] with Bulgarian feta. And since I don’t drink (but even if you do), a lemonnana [mint lemonade] or turmeric lime soda (toss some cucumber and cilantro in there if you have on hand) are both as delicious as they are refreshing.

    Zahav, Dizengoff, and Goldie all have a distinct Israeli flair. Why do you think there has been such an appetite for these cuisines in Philadelphia?
    People are increasingly interested in where their food comes from. And as this trend becomes not just a trend but a mentality that’s here to stay, I think people are relating to Israeli cuisine more and more, since the food of Israel is an ultimate representation of such. The food in Israel is harvested right there—it’s accessible, it’s as fresh as it gets, and the flavors are different. All things that whet Philadelphians' appetites.

    You’re rumored to have taken members of your staff sky diving. Why?! Is this a secret ingredient to your restaurants’ success?
    Life’s too short to not go on a slightly insane adventure every once in a while.

    To you, the Free Library of Philadelphia is also the Free Library of ____. Why?
    The Free Library of Philadelphia is also the Free Library of The Future—a model for other metropolitan cities to get behind.

    This story was originally featured in our Fall 2017 issue of Off the Shelf, a biannual publication with news and features from across the Free Library of Philadelphia system.

    author events culinary literacy

  • 21

    LEAP into HYPE!

    by Khyra L.

    Two Free Library of Philadelphia programs have teamed up to create new ways to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity! Get HYPE Philly! and the Literacy Enrichment After-School Program (LEAP), offer fun, positive, and tasty ideas to all neighborhood and regional libraries through our HYPE LEAP lessons.

    As a fundamental part of Mayor Kenney’s Five Year Financial and Strategic Plan, LEAP is a free, drop-in program for youth in grades K-12 and currently employs a workforce of approximately 125 Teen Leadership Assistants (TLAs). TLAs work with After-School Leaders and other library staff to focus on homework help, literacy, mentoring, technology, and maintaining a safe and supportive space.

    Get HYPE Philly! is generally focused in North Philadelphia, where many of the TLAs at these libraries not only attend events, but support Get HYPE Philly! program faciliators as well as participating youth patrons. The HYPE LEAP lessons offer TLAs at all Free Library locations a unique leadership experience to spread the HYPE message—"Healthy You, Positive Energy!".

    Essentially, the HYPE LEAP lessons are youth-centered; young people create the lesson content, as well as lead activities for youth patrons. Teens who work with Get HYPE Philly! created the HYPE LEAP lesson plans to be an interactive, youth-led literacy program in line with the GHP! goal of "creating a lasting impact, helping to ensure Philadelphia’s young people play a key role in building healthier communities, and becoming a healthier generation."  Participating library staff, including TLAs, are eligible to receive two ServSafe food handling certifications in addition to a fun way to encourage other youth to be HYPE!

    At a recent training, LEAP staff learned more about the HYPE LEAP curriculum. Focusing on the "Think Big, Think HYPE!" theme, we encouraged participants to consider ways  to bring positive, relevant change to their respective libraries.

    Hieu Nguyen, a TLA at South Philadelphia Library and president of the HYPE Program at Central High School, was excited to find ideas that he can bring to both places. He hopes to increase his peers’ participation in the HYPE program with more ideas, and was grateful to learn about the HYPE LEAP lessons. "[HYPE LEAP] brings forth another way to connect with the community," adds Hieu. Passionate about helping others, Hieu says he plans to be a neurosurgeon. "I know there’s a lot of money in that, but that’s not why I want it," says Hieu. "I just love learning about the brain and how it works! I want to help others by understanding how the brain works, and ways to treat things like Alzheimer’s and dementia."

    Hieu and the rest of the LEAP staff enjoyed a day full of HYPE activities, including The Hoola Hoop Challenge and making a healthy snack: Caprese Salad Skewers.

    Try this recipe at home and let us know what you think by tagging us on social media: @FLPGetHYPE on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or responding in the comments section below!

    Caprese Salad Skewers
    Recipe originally from


    • Cherry tomatoes·   
    • Mozzarella balls·   
    • Fresh Basil  
    • Olive Oil   
    • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
    • salt and pepper


    1. Assemble, tomatoes, basil (roll from one end to the other), and mozzarella balls on medium-sized toothpicks. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    2. To make balsamicreduction, add one cup of balsamic vinegar to a sauce pan over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, set on simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it reduces to a syrup consistency. You can check by dipping a spoon in the balsamic and if it covers the back of it, it's done. As it cools, it will thicken a bit more then drizzle on top of caprese salad skewers.
    Free Library staff Teens culinary literacy LEAP Recipes Get HYPE Philly


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