By Tuesday C., Kate G., and Sara P.
Hola, bonjour, dzien dobry, ni hao! Welcome to the Kensington / Fairhill / Riverwards Community Cookbook: a treasure showcasing the cultural diversity of our neighborhoods.
Food is a great tool for connecting people, and the Free Library of Philadelphia has historically promoted literacy through food. The Library’s Culinary Literacy Center affirms its mission:
"Cooking and eating are educational acts and provide opportunities to learn math, science, languages, history, and so much more."
Headquartered at Parkway Central Library, the Culinary Literacy Center also presents programs like Edible Alphabet — teaching English through cooking at neighborhood Free Library branches.
We began work on the Kensington / Fairhill / Riverwards Community Cookbook in the early days of the pandemic. The Free Library Community Initiatives Specialist Kate Goodman and Librarians Tuesday Chalmers and Sara Palmer collaborated with the interreligious nonprofit Interfaith Philadelphia to create a project that mostly relied on collaborative work we could do remotely. We spent approximately three years working on this true labor of love.
Starting in the summer of 2021, a flyer went out to patrons at North Philadelphia libraries east of Broad Street calling for recipe donations via a Google Form. We received 70 recipes but, more importantly, 70 personal stories — one for each recipe. The stories reflect the human meaning of cooking, from remembering the taste of your grandfather’s turkey tenderloin to recalling Ms. Judi’s programs at the McPherson branch making snickerdoodles. The recipes themselves reflect a huge range of cultures in the community — Puerto Rican, African American, Colombian, Jewish, Polish, and many more.
We also resurrected existing local recipe collections that had not been published yet. We included several recipes our ESL Edible Alphabet teacher created and translated with students as part of the Culinary Literacy Center at Lillian Marrero Library. Penn State Extension collected recipes from Norris Square Senior Center for a cookbook but never finished theirs. We were able to incorporate these recipes into our cookbook as well.
Since many of our library patron population speak Spanish, we committed to a bilingual format presenting the recipes in English and Spanish. We recruited the Norris Square Community Alliance, Kensington Voice, and Kensington Community Food Co-op to help translate recipes in both directions. Students from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania helped with both graphic design and translation.
Delight in cooking has no age restrictions! Our branches’ after-school kids were key to the project. With the help of Mural Arts' Kensington Storefront and Norris Square Neighborhood Project, we were able to organize workshops at various locations for adults and kids to design pictures/collages to illustrate the cookbook.
As the project developed, we realized we needed a cover that represented our communities. We are proud to feature a cover design by local muralist JC Zerbe, whose public art is featured throughout the Kensington area.
Copies of the cookbook are being sold at several branches in the North Philadelphia Cluster, including McPherson Square Library, Cecil B. Moore Library, Richmond Library, and Kensington Library. To help cover expenses, we are asking for donations on a sliding scale ranging from $2 to $20.
Email Kate (email@example.com) or visit a branch if you would like to purchase a copy of the Community Cookbook. The cookbook is also available for checkout from the Free Library's catalog.