May is Older Americans Month and is the perfect time to start a new hobby with a little help from HCLS! Check out these great resources you can access for free with your library card.
Looking to get artsy? We’ve got some great DVD series to help you start. Craftsy offers hands-on lessons in creative mediums such as knitting, watercolors, crochet, and sewing. Interested in painting? Follow along with Bob Ross as he guides you every step of the way toward creating your own masterpiece in his art video series.
Interested in building a family tree and learning about your family’s history? Check out, via our online research tools, Ancestry Library Edition (only available in library branches), HeritageQuest, and MyHeritage Library Edition for access to billions of records from all around the world – including census records, immigration records, and beyond!
Budding photographers can head over to LinkedIn Learning for comprehensive video tutorials on topics like mobile photography, taking portraits, photo composition, photo editing, and more! Simply login with your library card and pin number to begin.
Expand your linguistic horizons and study a new language. For those who prefer to learn in quick, fun, daily lessons, Mango is a great option. Just download the free mobile app, select the language you want to learn, and start learning! For more immersive learning, Rosetta Stone offers structured lessons in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
Hoping to introduce some new recipes into your repertoire? Check out the Great Courses’ Everyday Gourmet DVD series. With courses on outdoor cooking, Mediterranean cooking, and cooking with vegetables, there’s something for every palate!
Emily is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and re-watching old seasons of Survivor.
Author and Journalist Laila El-Haddad discusses the history of spices and cuisine from the Middle East and demonstrates some of her recipes in this special virtual event on January 20.
Her book is extraordinary, clearly a labor of love. She talks about living and political conditions in Gaza, while also providing recipes for standard and special dishes of the region. She explains the regional pantry of ingredients and various techniques. I learned that the flavors that separate Gazan cuisine from other Palestinian cooking are hot chilies and dill. I can’t wait to try a couple of recipes (although my family has a notoriously low tolerance for heat), especially for various kebabs.
My favorite parts, though, are the abundance of photography and the personal interviews. This book is simply stuffed full of pictures: food and preparation steps, sure, but also portraits and places. It’s like taking a tour! And El-Haddad included these wonderful side-bar individual interviews, mostly with women and some local farmers. They give such a revealing glimpse into the lives of ordinary Gazan people. My favorite was with one woman, Um Sultan, who was less than happy that her routine, easy kufta recipe was to be included. Who wants to be to be singled out for their good, plain cooking as opposed to something more complicated and impressive? I learned a lot, but mostly was reminded of the power of food to cross barriers and bring people together to enjoy a good meal.
The Fertile Crescent region—the swath of land comprising a vast portion of today’s Middle East—has long been regarded as pivotal to the rise of civilization. Alongside the story of human development, innovation, and progress, there is a culinary tradition of equal richness and importance. The book includes a quote from Anthony Bourdain on the cover:
Laila El-Haddad is an award-winning Palestinian-American author and journalist. She frequently speaks on the situation in Gaza, the intersection of food and politics, and contemporary Islam. She has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, the Guardian and the International Herald Tribune and has appeared on many international broadcasting networks, including NPR, CNN, Al Jazeera, and CCTV.
She is the author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between and, co-author of the critically acclaimed The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey, which was the recipient of the ‘Best Arab Cuisine Book’ award from Gourmand magazine, and a finalist at the 2013 MEMO Palestine Book Awards. She is also the co-editor of the anthology Gaza Unsilenced and contributor to The Immigrant Cookbook: Recipes that Make America Great. Her forthcoming book, Halal Tayyib: A Muslim American Culinary Journey, explores the history of Islam in America as told through food. An avid gardener and outdoor enthusiast, she makes her home in Howard County, MD with her husband and their four children.
Thursday, January 20 at 7 pm, online. Please register here.
Sponsored by Muslim Family Center – Howard County, MD and RIVUS Consulting, Howard County, MD
Low-Fat. Mediterranean. Atkins. Whole 30. Keto. Paleo. Vegan. Pegan. Pegan? (That’s paleo meets vegan.) While there is little consensus as to which diet is the best, there is near universal agreement that a healthy diet includes abundant produce – fruits and, especially, vegetables. But most of us still aren’t getting enough. According to the USDA’s most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 90 percent of the US population does not get its daily recommendation of vegetables.
Whether you are already getting your five servings a day, we have a cornucopia of titles in our cookbook collection to help you incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet.
Meera Sodha’s East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing is an inspired collection of vibrant recipes, many originally published in her Guardian food column,”The New Vegan.” In her introduction, Sodha recalls when she first agreed to write the column that not only was she not vegan, she was in the middle of a major life change, having recently given birth to her first child. Excited by the writing challenge when she was seeing the world anew through her daughter’s eyes, she embarked on a journey to discover vegan recipes that would satisfy not just vegans but meat-eaters like herself. With a culinary background (and two prior cookbooks) rooted in her Indian heritage, Sodha broadens her horizons in East, with vegetarian and vegan recipes inspired by her travels in East and South Asia. The book is divided into chapters such as Snacks & Small Things, Curries, Flour and Eggs, Legumes, and Sweets. A few pages of “alternative contents” are also helpful, with categories such as Quick Dinners and From the Pantry, in addition to seasonal categories for those who like to cook by the calendar. This fall, I am tempted by Autumn Pilau with squash, lacinato kale, and smoked garlic, perhaps followed by some Pineapple Love Cake or Salted miso brownies.
The title Mostly Plants echoes a line from author-journalist Michael Pollan’s 2008 book In Defense of Food: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” While recognizing the nutritional and cultural value of meat, he champions a diet of moderation composed mostly of whole foods, with meat being demoted from star to supporting player. In Mostly Plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family, Michael Pollan’s mother, Corky, and sisters Tracy, Dana, and Lori have created a cookbook full of healthy, flavorful recipes designed to be on the table in 35 minutes or less. Each Pollan has her own dietary preference, some eating meat and others not. Their goal with the book is not to promote one particular diet but rather to shift “the ratio from animals to plants.” Each recipe features easy-to-read icons indicating if it is vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and/or fast, as well as helpful hints for adaptations (to make a vegetarian recipe vegan, for example). Beautiful photos fill the pages, highlighting such recipes as Mesclun greens with persimmons and Manchego cheese and Udon Noodle Soup with miso-glazed vegetables and chicken. The book finishes with a chapter devoted to sweets, the Apple Galette Rustique with apricot glaze sounding to me like a perfect fall dessert.
Fans of chef-activist Bryant Terry may know him as the author of the celebrated 2014 cookbook Afro-Vegan: Farm-fresh African, Caribbean and Southern Flavors Remixed. In his more recent book Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes, Terry explores the realm of vegetables in all their glorious parts, from seeds to roots. In his introduction, subtitled “Fennel for Zenzi,” Terry credits his two daughters as his inspiration. “I wrote this book to make a diversity of foods from the plant kingdom irresistible to them, to inspire their curiosity.” Even the structure of the book, with recipes sorted into chapters based on which part of the plant is used (flower, bulb, etc.) came from his older daughter Mila’s gardening class assignment. The recipes exhibit a further geographical reach than his previous books, with influences from East and Southeast Asia, reflective of his wife’s heritage. The book offers a feast for the senses, not just for the eyes and the palate, but for the ears, too. Terry includes a song pairing for each recipe. Before I prepare Dirty Cauliflower with tempeh, mushrooms, scallions, and parsley, I will be sure to queue up the suggested track, “Flat of the Blade” by Massive Attack. Terry does not include a chapter on sweets, but I imagine that he would approve of my default easy dessert—a few squares of dark chocolate which is, of course, vegan.
If you are interesting in healthy plant-based cooking, consider joining HCLS Elkridge Branch for Plant-Based Nutrition: Everything You Want to Know and More! on Thursday, October 7 at 6:30 pm. University of Maryland Extension teaches participants about plant-based nutrition, the benefits of a plant-based diet, and how to shop and plan meals using plant-based foods.
Holly L. is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting and appreciates an audiobook with a good narrator.
If you’re familiar with Korean cooking and YouTube, chances are you’ve heard of Maangchi. Originally born and raised in Korea, she now lives in New York City and has been uploading Korean cooking videos to YouTube since 2007. Always cheerful and armed with her trusty knives, she’s taught her 5.5 million subscribers the ins and outs of Korean cooking and the recipes she grew up on. And she is just fun to watch. Even if I’m not cooking, I will watch her videos just because she is a breath of sunshine; by the end, I always want her as my Korean auntie.
I work at the Miller Branch of HCLS which is in Ellicott City and home to Route 40, or Korean Way as it is designated by the state. Here, there is no shortage of great establishments that serve the most delicious cuisine that Korea has to offer, but if you’ve ever wanted to cook Korean food at home, I wholeheartedly recommend watching Maangchi’s recipe videos or checking out her books: Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking or Maangchi’s Big Book of Korean Cooking. Through these books I have learned just how EASY it is to cook many of the staples I’ve had in Korean restaurants over the years. Bulgogi, kimchi, numerous jjigaes or stews, bibimbap, you name it; she has taught me all. Her recipes are so simple and so easy to make that you’ll be hosting your next get-together with her recipes and wowing everyone with your cooking prowess. I can personally attest to that. I recently hosted a small Korean BBQ party (where everyone had been fully vaccinated) and everyone was so impressed and so full by the end.
Both of her books are available to check out or reserve through the Howard County Library System. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.
See you next time! Bye!
Maangchi at the end of every video
Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch and just loves to eat.
Something kind of funny happened at the holidays: every member of my family was gifted a cookbook. I’m not sure if this is in recognition that we all like to play in the kitchen or the need to find some new recipes as we have grown seriously bored with our old usuals. Both?
Last year in a gift exchange, a colleague presented me with Plenty by Yotam Ottalenghi. I was only vaguely familiar with the author’s name but was no particular fan. He’s an Israeli-English chef, restauranteur, and cookbook author. He owns several delis and restaurants in London and specializes in Middle Eastern flavors and cuisines. I was immediately intrigued by the beautiful photography and the series of recipes that concentrate on types of foods. Vegetables, grains, and other plants are often side dishes on my table, and this book shows how to make them the stars. While some of the recipes required ingredients I don’t always keep on hand and the time to think my way through a new process, the couple I have tried have been wonderful. The green couscous, overflowing with fresh herbs and scallions, was a lovely addition to summertime meals.
For Christmas, my son gave me Ottolenghi Simple by the same chef author, having noticed my enjoyment of the previous book. As the name suggests, this book contains simpler recipes. SIMPLE is an acronym for recipes that stands for: Short on time, Ingredients ten or fewer, Make ahead, Pantry-led, Lazy-day dishes, and Easier than you think. Not every recipe partakes of all the categories, but it offers a nice shorthand at the top of the page. Ottolenghi’s pantry differs significantly from mine, but shopping provides part of the fun of new recipes. Discovering different tastes and textures is the main reason I like to check out cookbooks and get busy in the kitchen. I have tried one recipe from this book already: Baked rice with confit of tomatoes and garlic. Baked rice was easy and turned out perfectly. Next time, though, I will halve the recipe because we ended up eating it all week. I posted a picture of my newfound deliciousness on Facebook (like you do) and promptly recommended this book to a friend who wanted the recipe.
The library owns a wide array of cookbooks for you to borrow, from celebrity chefs such as Ottolenghi to cooking with certain kitchen appliances (Do you have an Instapot or slow cooker?) or even for specific dietary needs. Celebrity chefs is one of the current topics for Bundle Bags, where staff will browse the shelves for you. Or, you can always chat with us about what you’re looking for. I wish you happy cooking!
Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to spend winter reading, baking, and waiting for baseball to return.
2020 was a difficult year, and we all know it. In difficult times, we often turn to things that bring us comfort such as books, music, movies, or food, and oftentimes our favorites are the ones we turn to many times over and never get tired of. What brings me comfort? The movie Julie & Julia. This 2009 film is based on Julie Powell’s 2005 book and intertwines the story of Julia Child as she grows into a chef extraordinaire with the life of government worker Julie Powell as she cooks her way through all of the recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This is a favorite film of mine for many reasons: Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Stanley Tucci, comedy, and last but not least…FOOD. Seriously, I could watch this movie once a week for forever.
As a child we didn’t have cable so I had to rely on watching whatever our TV antenna was able to pick up and most often it was PBS. I remember seeing Julia Child and Jacques Pépin cook dish after dish, and they (along with many other PBS cooking shows) are one of the reasons I became the foodie I am today.
But back to Julie & Julia: as I mentioned before, there are many reasons why I love this movie, but what I didn’t mention was that it has one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. It’s…relaxing, for lack of a better term. When I turn on this movie, it is often just in the background as I cook, clean, or when I just want to free my mind of all the clutter. Don’t believe me? Well, check it out – it is available to stream and download from Freegal through Howard County Library System. All you’ll need is your library card number and PIN. It’s that easy!
Meryl Streep shines as Julia Child accompanied by Stanley Tucci as her husband Paul. Their onscreen chemistry makes you believe in love and triumph through hard work and determination, and I love every single scene with them. Amy Adams, however, is no slouch, and her portrayal of Julie Powell perfectly conveys how arduous the task was to cook more than 500 of Julia Child’s recipes, all while enjoying most of it, despite a few burnouts and tantrums along the way. When she describes her childhood memory of the magic of Julia’s bœuf bourguignon I am sorely tempted to make the recipe myself (but would end up eating by myself thanks to my vegetarian partner).
I leave you with a quote from Julia Child:
People who love to eat are always the best people.
Peter is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch where he is one of the nerdiest people you could meet.
The James Beard Award-winning book, The Cooking Gene, defies categorization: part memoir, part highly researched historical account of Southern foodways, and part genealogical research into the author’s ancestry. It also includes recipes. By no means an easy book to read in its themes or storytelling, Twitty takes us on journeys throughout the American colonies with the contributions of enslaved Africans front and center. The book generally follows the history of the American South, but other bits work their way in, too. Personal experiences and family stories intersperse with long lists of ingredients found at plantation feasts. It’s like having an extremely learned docent talking about all his favorite subjects, which is a fair assessment of the situation.
Michael Twitty is a gay, black, Jewish man who interprets historical Southern cooking, particularly from the pre-Civil War era. His book recounts some of those experiences, intermingled with a wealth of knowledge about how “soul food,” that indelible American cultural touchstone, came to be. As human beings made the Middle Passage from Africa to America, food and culture naturally travelled with them. The Cooking Gene presents a fascinating dissection of slave-holding states and their regional variations, from the Chesapeake area along the Low Country of the Carolinas and Gullah-Geechee to the deep South of Louisiana and Alabama. Each area offered something new and different into the country’s cooking lexicon, and most of those old kitchens were run by slaves … some of whom were even trained in Paris to further increase the standings of the families they served.
Twitty focuses on food as a way to explain the people: yams, corn, rice, greens, tobacco, and more. As part of the food history, he also details the different eras of human commerce and wrote a sentence that stopped me cold in my tracks and that I’ve thought about ever since:
The black body was the single most valuable commodity in the American marketplace between the years 1790 and 1860 (p. 321).
The other major thread winding through this astounding book is what Twitty calls his Southern Discomfort Tour. He, with the help of genetic testing and professional genealogists, has traced more than eight generations of his family’s history in America. He located records of his ancestors’ lives along the North Carolina/Virginia border, as well as deeper into the South. He found receipts of their sales and how they were listed among assets of landowners. From his genetic testing results, he could identify which regions and tribes his family belonged to in West and Central Africa. His racial heritage also includes more than a quarter European descent, which led him to travel to London and Dublin to claim those parts of his heritage, too. I realized that Twitty’s family has been in America longer than just about anyone’s I know. Twitty pulls very few punches recounting the terrors and sordid realities of life for slaves. The genius of this book is that the author puts so much of himself into the telling that the reader must do him the respect of listening.
I learned so much, including the sheer diversity of the African population that made the Middle Passage and how – truly, in every way – African-Americans built our country. They were the field hands, builders and master craftsmen, knowledgable farmers and hunters, and yes … the cooks who fed everyone. I learned about the history of our country’s foods and about a diversity that we lack in our modern era of packaged foods and monocultures. In my family, as in so many others, food is love. The Cooking Gene is nothing short of Michael Twitty’s love letter to his culture, his family, and the foodways of the American South.
This title is available in the collection as a book, eBook, and eAudiobook, both via Overdrive and RB Digital, which has the “always available” audio as part of its Anti-Racism reading list.
If you are interested in learning more about the African-American experience and anti-racism, join us for an online conversation on Monday, July 20 with Ibram X. Kendi on “How to Be an Anti-Racist.” Registration required.
Kristen B. has worked for HCLS for more than 15 years, and currently hosts the Books on Tap discussion group at Hysteria Brewing Company. She loves reading, Orioles baseball, and baking.