• 10

    Summer Thyme Camp In Review

    by Shayna M.

    The Culinary Literacy Center has been cooking up summer fun for youth over the last five years through the Summer Thyme Cooks program. This past summer, the Nourishing Literacy team piloted week-long camp sessions for youth. Summer Thyme Camp was a success!

    We ran three weeks of programming—one week for students between the ages of ten through twelve, one week for students between the ages of thirteen through fifteen, and one week for the children of our Free Library of Philadelphia staff colleagues, between the ages of six through elevenwith an awesome thirteen-year-old assistant who joined us during staff week!

    Each week, students visited the library from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Summer Thyme Campers spent the first two-thirds of their day in the kitchen classroom with the Nourishing Literacy teachers, practicing kitchen skills, cooking together while making new friends, and preparing celebratory, summer-inspired recipes using fruits and vegetables. Students ate what they cooked for their lunch and it worked out well!

    For the remainder of their day, students visited a rotating library department, spending time with our Parkway Central Library colleagues, and learning more about what the library has to offer. Thank you to our friends in Rare Books, Enrichment & Civic Engagement, One Book, Field Teen Center, Art, and Music for welcoming and hosting our youth! An extra thank you to Naquawna Letman, Culinary Literacy Center team member, for providing the Summer Thyme Camp crew with the opportunity to engage in the new program that she has developed, Exploring Music and Food Through the Senses.

    Offering full-week Summer Thyme Camp sessions was meaningful to the Nourishing Literacy team and to the Culinary Literacy Center as a whole. During the school year, the Nourishing Literacy team works with a different school class each day a program is offered, allowing us to welcome as many students to our kitchen classroom as possible. Seeing the same youth every day for a week, observing the students come together as a group, and having the opportunity to work with them on skill-building over a period of five days was special and unique for our team.

    Thank you so much to the Nourishing Literacy team for all of your work and care. You are so appreciated! A huge thank you to all of the students and caregivers who participated in this year’s program! We appreciated so much your time, effort, and enthusiasm. Working with you was awesome!

    During the 2019/2020 school year, Nourishing Literacy is providing pre-K through high school classes with hands-on cooking programs beginning in November. Details about our schedule and how to register will be available in early October.

    Until then, happy cooking, and wishing all students, teachers, and caregivers a wonderful beginning of the new school year!

    children's programs culinary literacy

  • 4

    Language Learning at the Free Library During Adult Education Month!

    by Lindsay S.

    Looking for a chance to learn or practice a world language like Spanish, Italian, or Mandarin Chinese? Interested in meeting new people, learning to cook a new recipe, and having a great time? Join us in the Culinary Literacy Center for one of our three hands-on Edible Alphabet world language cooking classes in September during Adult Education Month!

    On Thursday, September 12, we will learn to make dumplings and practice basic Mandarin Chinese vocabulary and phrases.






    On Thursday, September 19, we will practice speaking Italian while learning to make fresh pasta from scratch.






    On Monday, September 23, we will cook a Latin American summer pasta dish while practicing our Spanish language skills.






    Tickets for all three events are available on Eventbrite. SNAP eligible participants are provided a free ticket, with advance communication. Please call the Culinary Literacy Center at 215-686-5323 to receive one of these reserved tickets. If the events are sold out, add yourself to our waitlist and be the first to know when new classes are scheduled. Proceeds from the class benefit our free Edible Alphabet English classes offered at the Culinary Literacy Center and Neighborhood Libraries across the city.

    Interested in learning a new language but can’t make it to the Culinary Literacy Center classes in September? Check out other Free Library programs for language study, stop by the Languages and Learning Center at Parkway Central Library to check out our language learning collections, or use your library card to access language learning databases like Mango Languages for free.

    ¡Esperamos verlos a todos pronto en la biblioteca!

    Speriamo di vedervi presto in biblioteca!


    (We hope to see you all at the library soon!)

    online learning culinary literacy digital learning adult learners Languages and Learning Center

  • 26

    Music Department and Culinary Literacy Center Collaborate on Programming

    by Community-Centered Libraries

    Naquawna Letman is a Library Assistant at Parkway Central Library and a participant in Cohort 3 of the Skills for Community-Centered Libraries trainings.

    Exploring Music and Food through the Senses is a program that introduces participants to various cultures and traditions, creates bridges between neighborhood libraries and their customers, and inspires participants to explore new food and music.

    Participants learn a recipe, listen to music on a record player from The Free Library of Philadelphia’s vinyl collection, make up their own beat or song using craft materials, and learn about the history and traditions of selected countries all while engaging their senses.

    This program began as a new approach to increasing school age children and young adults’ engagement with Parkway Central Library’s Music Department. Due to targeted marketing towards adults, our sheet music, books, and instruments are often overlooked by adolescents. The collaboration between the Music Department and the Culinary Literacy Center enables us to promote musical instruments and concepts in connection with learning about food, community, and culture.

    The Skills for Community-Centered Libraries training impacted the success of this project. Specifically, learning how to identify my professional strengths and expanding my awareness of team dynamics helped me utilize the skills of team members whose strengths were my weaknesses. My colleagues helped with program formatting, policy and procedures, and tips on teaching different age groups.

    Equally important, practicing strategic facilitation skills such as asking open-ended questions to encourage deeper discussions helped me realize missing pieces of the project I hadn’t anticipated, find new resources, and finalize the program guide. Identifying current community assets and resources at neighborhood libraries, using community assets when developing programs, and sharing programming and community successes with different audiences are main features of the program we developed.

    Exploring Music and Food through the Senses is family-oriented and can be customized to the demographics of each neighborhood, ensuring community needs are served. Learning new approaches to program development helped me incorporate flexibility for the presenters and participants. Without the skills learned in the trainings, I may not have contemplated organizing such an adaptable program.   

    Please join us for the following Exploring Music and Food through the Senses events:

    This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [Grant #RE-95-17-0089-17].

    Free Library Staff music culinary literacy community neighborhood libraries IMLS

  • 16

    National Honey Bee Day at the Free Library!

    by Suzanna U.

    by Suzanna U. and Amy T.

    The third Saturday in August marks National Honey Bee Day, and the Free Library knows a thing or two about honey bees! Did you know we have quite a few of our own bees buzzing around town?

    You better BEE-lieve it! Let us set the stage…

    The Parkway Central Library is abuzz with activity. A record player in the Music Department belts out sweet vocals for an elderly patron to enjoy, while the Children’s Department is in full swing with busy toddlers engaging in early literacy at every turn. Venture upstairs and you’ll see globes in the Map Collection spinning alongside the many beloved titles in our subject departments; further up, visitors to the Our Five Senses exhibit take in the heady scratch and sniff portion of the show.

    But on the very top of the building, you’ll find our smallest yet mightiest patrons: nearly 300,000, as a matter of fact. Our rooftop apiary, installed in 2018 by the Philadelphia Bee Company, includes four beehives and is home to approximately 240,000 honey bees. Nectar from flowers as close as our rooftop herb garden’s rosemary and sage planters to the blossoming ecosystem in parks and gardens within flying distance will come together to produce as much as 60 pounds of honey this year!

    The Culinary Literacy Center uses honey in a number of programs, including a recent field trip welcoming students from the Overbrook School for the Blind as part of our Cookability program geared towards people of all ages with visual impairments. Students had a chance to meet beekeeper Don Shump and examine essential tools, such as a bee smoker, as well as fragrant bee products such as wax blocks. Throughout the day’s activities, students asked questions about honey production and bee life, learned about the different flavors of honey that are produced based on the nectar source, and made a honey-based dressing for a seasonal salad with Cookability instructor Devin D’Andrea. Books relating to honey were also read out loud, and by the end of the program empty bowls and smiling faces told us all what an impact such a simple ingredient as honey can have on a shared meal. Across town, the Richmond Library has an equally special connection with bees…

    The story of the Richmond bees is a honeyed history, one that reflects human beings’ long fascination with bees as social animals. For over 10 years, the Richmond Library housed a feral hive of honey bees within the mortar of the building. Neighborhood families aware of the colony took a cautious approach to our tiny citizens, though some expressed reservation and fear. After all, a single bee sting can sometimes cause a serious allergic reaction in some people. Efforts to avoid this possibility resulted in consultations with Don Shump. Through Don, we learned about the inner workings of a complex society of individuals functioning as one. We also learned the importance bees have played in the human economy since the beginnings of civilization. The more the Richmond Library staff learned about our library honey bees, the more entranced we became. What better time than now, we thought, to showcase a fellowship of altruism, organization, and societal harmony? What better time to encourage learning about the planet as a fragile ecosystem, dependent on species of pollinators to feed us, sustain our habitats, and protect biodiversity?

    When the feral hive moved from above the front door of the library to inside the library, into a glass case they now call home, our patrons and neighbors have fallen in love with the bees. Library program attendance and foot traffic has reached an all-time high. Penn State University and the Academy of Natural Sciences have teamed up with the Richmond Library and are using our bees in the longest and largest honey bee behavior study in the United States! The Richmond Library is proud to house a small population of the planet’s remarkable terrestrial life and provide patrons with experiential learning.

    And now you know the buzz at the Free Library! If you’d like to study up on the importance of bees in our world, we’ve also got helpful online resources for you to browse, complete with bee-centric titles in our catalog, websites, and even some trivia from library staff! (Did you know that the modern beehive, called a Langstroth hive, was invented in Philadelphia?! Woop!)

    Happy Honey Bee Day!

    Holidays culinary literacy community neighborhood libraries

  • 17

    La Cocina: Pursuit of the American Dream Through Cooking

    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.

    culinary literacy diversity

  • 3

    Eid al-Fitr | Falafel (Chickpea Patties) Recipe

    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


    • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas
    • 2 tsp. baking soda
    • 2 small onions, chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
    • 2 tsp. ground cumin
    • 2 tsp. ground coriander
    • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
    • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
    • 2 tbsp. tahini
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • olive or vegetable oil for frying
    • 3 large pita pieces, cut in half
    • 2 small tomatoes, chopped


    1. Place chickpeas in a large bowl or baking dish with 1 tsp. of the baking soda and cover with water. Refrigerate and leave to soal for 24 hours.
    2. Drain chickpeas in a colander. Rub them lightly between your hands to remove skins. Rinse well.
    3. Combine chickpeas, half the chopped onions, 2 cloves of garlic, and all of the cumin, coriander, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne (if using) in a food processor or blender. Process until the mixture becomes a thick, smooth paste.
    4. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add remaining tsp. of baking soda. Cover and let sit, unrefrigerated, for 30 minutes.
    5. To make tahini sauce, combine yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, and 1 clove garlic. Stir with a whisk until well blended. Cover and chill.
    6. Use your hands to form chickpea mixture into patties about 2 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick.
    7. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a saucepan or deep frying pan. Heat over medium heat, until oil bubbles slightly when you dip a corner of a falafel patty into it. Carefully use a slotted spoon to place as many patties in the pan as fit comfortably. Fry 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain.
    8. To serve, fill the pocket of each pita half with 2 or 3 patties, some chopped onion and tomato, and a bit of tahini sauce.


    Preparation time: 30 minutes (plus overnight soaking and 30 minutes sitting time)
    Cooking time: 30 to 45 minutes
    Serves 4 to 6

    Holidays culinary literacy Recipes

  • 10

    A Mother's Day Recipe for Kids (of All Ages)!

    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
    Ample Planning
    Dash of Humor
    Sufficient directions, well understood

    Mix thoroughly with an appreciation of children.
    Time: Longer than you think.
    Temperature: Cool and calm.


    Raisin Bars


    • 1 ½ cups graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
    • 1 cup raisins
    • 1 cup small marshmallows
    • 1 cup heavy cream


    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 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!

    Holidays culinary literacy Recipes

  • 8

    Summer Thyme Cooks!

    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:

    Applications for students entering grades 5-8 »

    Applications for students entering grades 9-12 »

    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

    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.

    culinary literacy

  • 7

    Learn and Practice Spanish at the Free Library!

    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

    ¡Nos vemos pronto en la biblioteca!

    languages culinary literacy digital learning adult learners English Language Learners

  • 1

    Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ASB) to Honor the Free Library

    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.

    awards culinary literacy community neighborhood libraries


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