DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

August 2012

Aug 8 2012

On the menu…

by Dea Anne M

I’ve always enjoyed reading what I suppose you could call culinary history. Books like The Food of a Younger Land, The Big Oyster: history on the half shell, and Something from the Oven: reinventing dinner in 1950s America are all favorites of mine. I think it’s fascinating to learn about the cooking, dining habits, and available ingredients of people in other times and places. Did you know that at one time the lower estuary of the Hudson River was home to over half of the world’s oyster supplies or that the first frozen dinner was a Thanksgiving type meal of turkey and dressing?

Of course, restaurant menus can provide an important window into the dining preferences of particular people and times. The New York Public Library boasts what sounds like  an impressive collection of menus with its strongest focus on those dating from between 1890 and 1910. Currently NYPL is inviting the public to participate in its What’s On the Menu? project. Participants transcribe menus dish by dish in order to create a wider base of data available to historians, researchers, novelists and anyone else who needs specific information from the menu collection. Right now, the collection’s only searchable information are details such as the name of particular restaurants, geographical location and the like. Imagine though that you are a novelist and you need to find out how much your character would have paid for a plate of oysters at a Cavanagh’s in 1918. Thanks to the Menu Project, you can have your character choose, with complete historical accuracy, either the Lynhavens for 35 cents or the Pan Roast for 45 cents. Maybe your character wants to treat his paramour to pheasant at Delmonico’s on March 11th in 1916. Sorry, it isn’t on the menu, but it will be on April 19th two years later.

The website for the Menu Project provides easy to follow instructions for transcription or review of the menus and their various dishes and you can do as much as you like. It looks interesting to me as well as fun and I’m thinking to give it a try. You can too by simply visiting the web site. No registration is required. In the meantime, I might pursue my menu interest by paging through these titles featuring recipes and stories from some of this country’s historic restaurants:

Manhattan’s 21 Club opened in 1922 as a speakeasy. Featured in many movies and books, 21 is maybe best known for the row of painted lawn jockeys that line the balcony above its entrance. You can read more about the restaurant in The 21 Cookbook: recipes and lore from New York’s fabled restaurant by Michael Lomonaco.

Delmonico in New Orleans opened in 1895 as an off-shoot of New York’s famed Delmonico’s. Purchased and refurbished by Emeril Lagasse, it reopened in 1997. Read all about it (and check out vintage back and white photographs) in Emeril’s Delmonico: a restaurant with a past  by Emeril Lagasse.

Closer to home, Mary Mac’s Tea Room holds a treasured spot in many Atlanta hearts. Opened in 1945, the restaurant serves classic favorites of southern cuisine. Find them all, along with stories of the restaurant’s history in Mary Mac’s Tea Room: 65 years of recipes from Atlanta’s favorite dining room by John Ferrell.

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Aug 6 2012

Let the Reading Begin!

by Nancy M

While summer vacation might be winding down for many children, and is over for others (which this northerner cannot wrap her head around), summer is still in full swing and so are the Olympics.  This Olympics I have been a much more tearful, blubbering fool than ever and I think it’s because I’m a new mom. Recently, my ten month old son stood up in his crib for the first time and my heart nearly burst with pride. I feel this same pride for these young, accomplished athletes, which only intensifies when they pan to the parents (Missy Franklin, anyone?). I can only imagine how it must feel to have a child work so hard and win an Olympic medal.  Like many parents, I dream about all the great things my son will become one day, and currently that dream is for him to be an Olympic athlete! Now, if you would like to help bring out the Olympian in your child, the Library has many inspirational stories of athletes throughout history. Here are a few recommendations:

America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle by David Adler

Describes the life and accomplishments of Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel and a figure in the early women’s rights movement.

Zishe the Strongman by Robert Rubinstein

Relates the unusual story of Zishe, a poor Polish Jew, who became the featured Strongman of circuses throughout the world.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull

A biography of the African-American woman who overcame crippling polio as a child to become the first woman to win three gold medals in track in a single Olympics.

For children who would like to learn more about the Olympics and its origins:

Ancient Greece and the Olympics: a non-fiction companion to Hour of the Olympics by Mary Pope Osborne

Annie and Jack present information about ancient Greece and the athletic events known as the Olympic games that were held there.

Olympics by Chris Oxlade

Surveys the history and traditions of the Olympics, highlighting memorable events from ancient Greece to the present day.

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Aug 3 2012

ShareReads: A Nonfictional Summer

by ShareReads

Nothing fires my imagination quite as much as a brilliant work of nonfiction. I tend to be drawn to creative, informative and, many times, fairly serious nonfiction, works that offer a glimpse into the lives of others and, in many cases, the opportunity to understand ourselves better. With summertime winding down (I know, I know—it’s going by fast isn’t it?) why not delve into a great book about someone you’ve never met, a country you’ve always wanted to visit or a time in history that you’ve always been fascinated by?

In considering which books to discuss in this post there is one book that tops the list: a fascinating and thoroughly engaging book called India Becoming: A Portrait of Life In Modern India by Akash Kapur. Kapur, an Indian living in America since he was 16, returns to the country of his birth to explore the opportunities and challenges of 21st century India. His journey takes him far and wide—from bustling vibrant cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai to small towns and villages Tindivanam and Molasur—across the nation. Along the way Kapur introduces us to folks of all walks of Indian life including young Hari, a call center worker excited about the prospects of the new global economy,Veena, a 30-something careerwoman trying to strike a balance between her professional ambitions and her desire for family life and Sathy, a rural zamindar whose wealth and status is diminishing in the wake of New India’s shifting economy. Kapur is an incredible writer but also an exceptional listener, allowing the truths of his characters (for lack of a better word) to come forth, offering a compelling glimpse into New Millenium India.

Another intriguing and challenging nonfiction work that I have read a few times is Poor People by William T. Vollmann. The title, and indeed the subject matter, strikes an initially uninviting chord but I highly recommend this book. Poor People shines a light onto the lives of people from around the world subsisting in various states of poverty. The crux of this book lies within the author’s question to all of his interviewees: “Why are you poor?” The answers to this question range from simple (“Because I don’t have a job”) to philosophical (“I think I am rich,” says Wan, a young, emaciated beggar-girl in Bangkok) to fatalistic (“Money just goes where it goes”). Vollmann’s work is insightful in his discussion of the nature of poverty. His writing is vivid, expressive  and journalistic in his presentation of his subjects’  lives. Vollmann makes no pretense of owning the solution to the blight of poverty but perhaps this book and others like it brings its readers a step closer to understanding our fellow man.

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Aug 1 2012

One, Two, Buckle My(Jimmy)Choo

by Veronica W

With the almost apocalyptic heat we’re experiencing, people are wearing as little as they can get away with and that goes for on their feet as well.  While shopping recently, I saw an entire wall of fancy flip flops.  I am not a big flip flop fan but I admit shoe shopping calls to me. Sometimes I imagine the universal  question is not “Why am I here?” but “Where is the closest DSW?”

I will not claim gender rights to this love of leather, canvas, rubber, plastic and various other “man made uppers.” I’ve known men who have as much passion as women when it comes to their footwear – just witness the almost surreal debacle in stores last year over the newest Air Jordans.  The ensuing fights were equal opportunity lunacy.

From slippers to the most expensive shoes (reportedly the pictured pair of solid gold, high heel sandals, encrusted with 30 carats worth of diamonds, with a price tag of $228, 452), we love our footwear.  Almost as much as buying them, we love to read about them and look at pictures of them. I hear shoe catalogs are grabbed out of the mailbox faster than copies of  Time, People or O.

The library knows what people like to read and can offer more books about shoes than there is room to list them. For example, if you want to know the history of shoes, check out Where Will This Shoe Take You? : A Walk Through the History of Footwear or Hot Shoes: 100 Years of Sneakers from Start to Finish. If you are Imelda Marcos and think some of  those 1,000 plus pairs you have in your closet are becoming outdated, try A Closet Full of Shoes: Simple Ways to Make Them Chic. For some fun fiction, pick up Shoe Addicts Anonymous, which is also being made into a movie with Halle Berry. My personal favorite (title) is Don’t Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes.

The perceived importance of shoes can differ from country to country, culture to culture. Most of us go shoe shopping with style, color and perhaps price in mind. However in some  countries, where going barefoot is the norm because of poverty, shoes are less about style and more about warmth, protection and possible survival. Organizations such as Shoes for Humanity, Soles4Souls and the Barefoot Kids Foundation collect “gently used” shoes to distribute to those in need.

To interject a touch of whimsy, I ask you,  how would the prince have found Cinderella without the glass slipper? Wouldn’t Dorothy still be languishing in Oz if she hadn’t grabbed those ruby shoes?  Footwear  plays a big role in fairy tales and fantasy, as evidenced by the stories of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Puss in Boots, The Shoemaker and the Elves—as well as the aforementioned Wizard of Oz and Cinderella.

Take a look in your closet. How many pairs of shoes do you have (or will admit to having)? Someone said if you have more than three pairs – one for work, one for play and one for “dress-up” – then you have too many.  What say you? How important—or unimportant—is what you wear on your feet?

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