What Do Food and Books Have In Common?

By Paul M. Wed, October 17, 2018

What do food and books have in common? I can certainly name three things: They are organic, can grow mold, and can be preserved. Those three things were key elements to a lesson taught to third grade students on a recent class trip to the Parkway Central Library.

The Culinary Literacy Center (CLC) and the Rare Book Department collaborated on a lesson for students about preservation. One of the CLC flagship programs, Nourishing Literacy, is a children’s cooking program where school groups visit the state-of-the-art kitchen classroom for interactive learning opportunities through cooking. Nourishing Literacy teacher Shayna Marmar introduced the idea of "good" bacteria and how it interacts with food to help preserve it. Students were first introduced to sour foods and how food can change form when it is preserved. They learned about acid, pickling, and salt before making their own preserved food. At the end of class, everyone got to enjoy the fruits of their labor—quickles (quick pickles) and sweet and sour cabbage, as toppings for hot dogs.

Chidlren's Literature Collection Curator, Christopher Brown, taught the students about book preservation and how it relates to food. Food and books both come from organic matter and can experience similar processes. The students learned that books can also grow mold, like food, if damaged by water. Students learned about early book materials including cow skin, squirrel skin, and cotton. They were invited to soak books in water and learn how librarians preserve or conserve them from molding. Don't worry—by using tried and true book preservation techniques, no books were harmed in the day's fun!

The entire day was filled with laughter and excitement as the students got messy pickling vegetables and conserving damaged books. One of the best ways to teach subjects is to apply them to real life situations. What better way to do that by making food and conserving books. The students left with their own, slightly damp, book souvenirs and full bellies.

This is not the first time the Culinary Literacy Center and Rare Book Department have collaborated on programming and certainly won't be the last. The Rare Book Department’s recent In Our Nature: Flora and Fauna of the Americas exhibit played an integral role in many of the CLC’s public programs this past summer.


Check out these links for more information about Nourishing Literacy and the Rare Book Department’s permanent and upcoming exhibits and collections.

Instructor Shayna Marmar teaching a Nourisahing Literacy class.
Instructor Shayna Marmar teaching a Nourisahing Literacy class.
Curator Christopher Brown teaching students book conservation.
Curator Christopher Brown teaching students book conservation.
Student drying book pages.
Student drying book pages.

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