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


Jan 25 2012

Food for the future

by Dea Anne M

The Epi-log blog on the Epicurious website ran a story about a month ago regarding  potential global food profiles of the future as forecast  by futurist Christopher Barnatt. The not-so-good news is that Barnatt predicts that food will become increasingly scarce, and more expensive to purchase, due to declining oil supplies, global water scarcities, and increasingly unpredictable climate changes. According to Barnatt, these changes will necessitate that we start getting serious about producing and sourcing more of our food close to home. Barnatt sees as the good and hopeful news in all of this the already growing trend of urban based agriculture. Check out, for example, this design (at right) for a skyscraper housing gardens on some of its floors. For home-based food production, the Windowfarms Project offers options for growing hydroponic vegetables in window installed units. Barnatt goes on to say that we will all most certainly be eating less meat in the future and, because of drastic decreases in global shipping, we will not have the same variety in our diets that many, in the developed nations at least, enjoy now and certainly we will have access to fewer non-native fruits and highly processed foods. The trade-off is that locally sourced and fresher foods will insure a better diet for most of us. That might not be such a bad thing…less beef and fewer bananas but better health and fresher food.

I’ve posted here before about the pleasures of gardening on a personal level. I think that more and more, though I come to look at growing food as a potentially important skill to cultivate (as it were!). Barnatt’s predictions, if likely (and I think they are), seem to make it all the more vital to not only extend myself more as a gardener, but to actively encourage others to get involved with locally based food production. The possibilities are exciting when cities like Detroit are encouraging urban farming on a large scale and more and more restaurants are installing roof-top gardens.

Are you interested in exploring the topic yourself and maybe taking on the role as an urban pioneer? If so, check out these resources from DCPL.

Even if you aren’t interested in becoming an urban homesteader,   Your Farm in the City: an urban dwellers guide to growing food and raising livestock by Lisa Taylor will still give you a lot of great advice and information on producing a farm’s worth of vegetable, fruit, and herbs in the city or town setting. Useful information targeted to the urban gardener includes dealing with specifically urban pests, zoning laws, vandalism, and potentially suspicious neighbors.

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Dec 9 2011

Learning from an Iron Chef and others

by Amanda L

Recently, I have been hooked on those contest cooking shows that seemed to have exploded on to the scene. You might know the ones I’m talking about… Iron Chef, Top Chef, Chopped, etc. It fascinates me that these chefs can make a delicious meal out of those most unusual ingredients. I mean who has ever seen an uni? (If you want to learn more about this ingredient check out this article from Star Chefs online magazine.)

Growing up, I always thought that you had to have a recipe in order to make specific dishes. These shows have shown me that you can make delicious food without a recipe by just knowing some basic techniques, principles and  food parings. When I watch these types of shows, especially the judging, it has reinforced that while cooking uses science to understand the interaction of ingredients it truly is an art in that it is in the eye of the beholder… I mean taster.

The library has several books written by the stars and participants of these shows. While the shows have enabled me to be creative in many of the dishes I make, I still enjoy books that not only inspire me but enhance the information I gather from watching these shows.

Mission Cook by Robert Irvine

Trained by the best European chefs, Robert also shares his cooking philosophy, his best recipes and tips on how to add that special twist to any dish.

The Soul of a new cuisine: a discovery of the foods and flavors of Africa by Marcus Samuelsson

In The Soul of a New Cuisine , Marcus returns to the land of his birth to explore the continent’s rich diversity of cultures and cuisines through recipes and stories from his travels in Africa.

New American Table by Marcus Samuelsson

From the winner of Top Chef Masters An affectionate, thoroughly diverse tribute to the modern American table “I’ll introduce you to friends I’ve met along the way who have shared their foods, told me their stories and inspired me with their passion.

Good Eats: the early years by Alton Brown

Contains more than 140 recipes and close to 1,000 photographs and illustrations from the Peabody Award-winning TV show, “Good Eats”, along with explanations of techniques, lots of food-science information (of course!) and more food puns, food jokes and food trivia than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

Michael Symon’s Live to Cook by Michael Symon

Michael tells the amazing story of his whirlwind rise to fame by sharing the food and incredible recipes that have marked his route.

Cooking from the Hip by Cat Cora

Iron Chef America, Cat Cora is used to improvising exciting dishes on a moment’s notice. In this book she shows you how to do it too, whether you want a spur-of-the-moment supper or a spectacular dinner that doesn’t require spending your whole Saturday in the kitchen.

Top Chef: the quickfire cookbook

Everything the home chef needs to assemble an impressive meal and channel the energy of the Quickfire kitchen is collected here, including advice on hosting a Quickfire Cocktail Party and staging Quickfire Challenges at home

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Nov 30 2011

Baking up memories

by Dea Anne M

I will never forget the Christmas Eve that I arrived home from college at about 7:30 pm. After hugging me, Mom said “You can start baking the cookies while the rest of us trim the tree!” Now I know that some folks actually do put up the tree the night before, but even for my “let’s do everything at the last minute” family this was a little extreme. Anyway, I put my stuff down, pulled out the bowls and pans, and got to work. I think my head hit the pillow just before Santa arrived but I got those cookies baked and another family holiday tradition was preserved.

I started doing the holiday baking when I was still in high school and it was always a happy task for me. My family’s taste (or maybe just mine!) veered more towards the buttery end of the goodie spectrum than the sugary, and the cookies I baked were invariably rich. Dad’s favorite was a shortbread-like toasted pecan bedecked bar known as Jan Hagel. I also baked a cookie that we called Jingle Bells—a complicated affair that involved making a rich, buttery dough, setting aside about a third of it, dividing the rest in half, and using food coloring to dye one half green and the other half red. I would then form each dough half into a log and then shape the log into a form approximating that of a bell. I’d then divide the uncolored dough in half, roll out each piece into a rectangle, and wrap the rectangles around the bell-logs. After chilling, I would take the dough, slice it, and bake the bells. Right now, you might be thinking that no cookie could possibly taste good enough to be worth that much effort, and you might be right. Still, Jingle Bells were one of those “wouldn’t be Christmas without it” items for my family and, for me, time more than well spent. As if Jingle Bells weren’t enough, I also always made my own favorite, Christmas Spritz. These little labors of love involved filling a cookie press with a…you guessed it…buttery dough and carefully pressing out tiny Christmas wreaths which I would then painstakingly decorate with sprinkles and nonpareils.

I still do holiday baking, although these days my choices involve cookies of the “drop ’em and bake ’em” variety. I have for several years now baked the same two cookies—one a chocolate and chocolate chip flavored with peppermint and the other an orange flavored drop stuffed with dried cranberries and orange zest. I usually spend the better part of a day baking dozens and dozens to give to friends, co-workers, and family. Every year, as I consider baking a different variety, someone will tell me how much they loved the orange-cranberry last year or drop some not-so-subtle hint about looking forward to the chocolate-chocolate mint, and so my own holiday tradition remains preserved.

Are you looking to change up your own holiday baking tradition or start a new one? If so, DCPL has resources to help.

You’ll find a stunning collection of cookie possibilities in The Gourmet Cookie Book: the single best recipe from each year 1941 -2009. As the title promises, the editors of Gourmet magazine (which ceased publication in 2009) have selected a “best” recipe from each year. The selections range from the homey (Aunt Sis’s Strawberry Tart Cookies) to the exotic (Grand Marnier Glazed Pain D’Epice Cookies). You’re sure to find a tradition-worthy recipe or two here.

Say what you will about Martha Stewart, she’s still a woman who knows her way around a kitchen. The DVD Martha’s Favorite Cookies from the folks at Martha Stewart Living Television will provide you with one-on-one instructions for baking 33 different cookies including Fig Bars and Coconut Pinwheels. Yum!

Of course, holiday baking is about more than cookies. Holiday Baking: new and traditional recipes for wintertime holidays by Sara Perry includes not just recipes for cookies, but also pastries, savory tarts, oven baked omelets, and other delicious sounding treats. As the title promises, the recipes run the gamut of holidays that we celebrate this time of year and include Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Boxing Day.

And of course the winter holidays are never just about Christmas. If your family celebrates Kwanzaa, be sure to check out Eric V. Copage’s Fruits of the Harvest: recipes to celebrate Kwanzaa and other holidays. This book offers a global wealth of recipes from people of African descent. I don’t know about you, but Jerked Pork Chops and Fresh Papaya Chutney with a side of Garlic-Cheddar Grits Souffle sounds pretty good to me. For Hanukkah celebrations, you couldn’t do better than Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook. This impressive volume offers history, lore, and 400 fabulous recipes from the woman who is considered by many to be the reigning expert on global Jewish cuisine.

Here’s hoping that your holidays are filled with happiness! Do you have a holiday cooking tradition?


Sep 7 2011

Literature in layers

by Dea Anne M

We all know about sandwiches named for celebrities, a stellar example being the “Woody Allen,” a ridiculously huge conglomeration of pastrami, and corned beef on rye which is served at the Carnegie Deli in New York. Well, what about sandwiches inspired by all matters literary? Last October, the New Yorker ran a short article on its blog page on just this topic. The idea is that you invent a sandwich that suggests a particular book or author. I thought it looked like fun and decided to give it a try. Here are my own spins on the concept.

 The Great Gatsby – Baked spiced ham and bewitched turkey on bread that no one knows exactly how the host came to possess. Serve with a salad of harlequin design and lots of bathtub gin.

Oliver Twist – Plain bread. One slice. What do you mean you want more?

Pride and Prejudice – Oh, I think we had the cold mutton and tea afterward, but my dear, did you see the ribbons on her hat? Has she been so long in the country that she’s forgotten how one dresses in Town?

The Catcher in the Rye – Regular bread. Regular ham. Mayo, but no fancy mustard or chutney. I mean, what the heck is chutney anyway? All I’m saying is I don’t want anything phony. Oh, maybe it doesn’t matter. I mean, people never notice anything.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – State issued bread filled with the stuff of your worst nightmares, and you’d better eat all of it because you-know-who is watching.

The Old Man and the Sea –  Cuban bread topped with a REALLY BIG piece of fish. You’ll have to fight off the sharks to get it though.

Why don’t you give it a try? Believe me, it’s really fun once you get started. Also, if you’re into the sandwich as art form, don’t miss the website Scanwiches which consists entirely of scanned cross sections of sandwiches of all sorts. The text is minimal and the images are strangely beautiful floating against a black backdrop. As these things seem to happen, there will be a tie-in book released on National Sandwich Day which this year is November 3rd.



Feb 9 2011

Foodie Fiction

by Dea Anne M

I was among the stacks the other day and a title caught my eye – American Cookery: A Novel by Laura Kalpakian. Readers of this blog may know by now how enamoured I am of all matters cuisine oriented, and fiction that uses food and cooking as a theme is a favorite. American Cookery does not disappoint on any level. A rich, sprawling saga set in Southern California during the early and middle 20th century, it features strong characters, beautifully observed detail, and a guiding motif that illustrates the centrality of food and cooking in family life.

…the good cook wastes nothing, uses everything – and not just everything in the kitchen, but here and here.” Afton touched the top of her head and her heart.
— from American Cookery: A Novel by Laura Kalpakian.

Here are some other of my favorite titles in which cooking and food play a major role.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is a delicious novel that has to be on many lists of irresistible food oriented fiction.

Gertrudis got on her horse and rose away. She wasn’t riding alone – she carried her childhood beside her, in the cream fritters she had enclosed in a jar in her saddlebag.
— from Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

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Nov 3 2010

Culinary Goddesses

by Dea Anne M

Anyone who knows me knows that I am very interested in food. I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur of fine dining per se, although I do love eating a good meal. What I actually enjoy more than eating is putting food together. I love the process of constructing a pan sauce, roasting vegetables and watching them caramelize, using spices and herbs in a way that makes a balanced and satisfying soup. Most days of the week find me cooking something from scratch simply because, for me, it is such a pleasure.

Even more enjoyable than cooking though is reading about cooking. I devour cookbooks, so to speak, follow a number of cooking blogs, and Bon Appetit is my favorite magazine. My favorite writing though has to be a species known as the “culinary memoir,” and while I have enjoyed the muscular prose of writers such as Anthony Bourdain and Jacques Pepin, my favorite writers of this sort are women. Here follows a casual “pantheon” of those who I most admire…at least this week.

First, here’s some of the newer voices. All three of these women have been strong voices in the culinary world for some time now but I think you could say that each one is still testing her powers.

Julie Powell (above left) is the author of  Julie and Julia a book that grew out of a blog she started in order to record her struggles and triumphs to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s hugely influential Mastering the Art of French Cooking within the space of one year. The book has, of course, since been adapted into a film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.  Since then, Powell has published Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession an equally absorbing, though to my mind much darker account, of the aftermath of her publishing success and the changes that have taken place  in her marriage.

Amanda Hesser (above center) is a former food editor for the New York Times and is the author of Cooking for Mr. Latte, a compulsively readable (and re-readable!) account of the courtship between herself and her husband. Hesser now runs, with Merrill Stubbs, the food website food52. At DCPL check out  The Cook and the Gardener, Hesser’s story of a year she spent as cook at a chateau in France and the interesting friendship that developed between herself and the estate’s gardener.

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“Make your own baby food?  Are you insane?  Don’t you have enough to do?”

Yes, probably, and definitely.

I probably never would have considered making my own baby food, if my sister-in-law hadn’t done it first.  I’d never imagined such a thing somehow.  Baby food comes in jars, right?  It’s specially formulated for the nutritional requirements of babies…or so I assumed.  As it turns out, a baby food jar of pureed carrots contains…well, pureed carrots.  Expensive pureed carrots, I might add, since you can buy a bag of carrots for a whole lot less.  Once cooked, throw them in the blender, pour them into ice cube trays and freeze, and voila!–you have just created several servings of homemade baby food.

Commercial baby food was first introduced around 1900, but didn’t become more available until around 1930.  It gained in popularity in the latter part of the twentieth century (sounds like a long time ago, huh?) as pre-packaged, processed foods moved to the forefront of the American diet.  Organic baby food didn’t appear in jar form until 1987, however.

So while there’s the option now of less processed, more organic prepackaged baby food, it’s still relatively easy to make your own.  You’ll save money, have more control over what goes into your babe’s tummy, and maybe feel a little smug about your amazing Supermom (or dad) abilities.  It also made me take a closer look at what our family eats, and has led to healthier choices for all of us.  And if you think about it, it’s only a span of three months or so that babies require pureed foods.  Before you know it, Baby will be asking for food off of your plate!

The Library has several good books to get you started:

baby food bibleThe Baby Food Bible: a complete guide to feeding your child, from infancy on by Eileen Behan

This self-proclaimed baby food bible is just that–a comprehensive guide to foods by age as well as a thoughtful look toward healthier eating habits for the whole family.  I just recently discovered this book and am looking forward to trying some of the recipes for toddlers.

Super Baby Food by Yaron

Super Baby Food: absolutely everything you should know about feeding your baby and toddler from starting solid foods to age three years by Ruth Yaron

Yaron’s book is considered by many to be the ultimate baby food guide, although it goes a little overboard in some areas.  It’s essential as a basic what-to-feed-when-and-how guide, though, so mark the pages you’ll use the most (like the list of foods and how to prepare them) and ignore the rest until you need them (and unless you like dessicated liver or making your own finger paints, you may never need everything in this book).

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Aug 25 2010

We Are What We’ve Eaten

by Dea Anne M

The title of this post is an adaptation of the now famous quote from Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s monumental work of gastronomy, Physiologie du Gout or, in translation, The Physiology of Taste. What Brillat-Savarin actually wrote was “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are,” which has, of course, been commonly paraphrased as “You are what you eat.”  Now, anyone who knows me, knows also that I am interested (obsessed?) with culinary matters. I like reading about, and pondering, what we choose to eat and what it tells us about ourselves. Why eat yogurt, and how is it made? Who figured out that an artichoke ( a thistle, for Pete’s sake!) might be edible? There may be no definitive answer to these questions, but I find them fascinating to contemplate.  Other aspects of our culinary heritage are very well documented and I find these no less fascinating.

Some libraries have special collections devoted to gastronomy such as the Peacock-Harper Collection at Virginia Tech or the Food, Wine, and Culinary History Collection at Cornell University. Then, of course, there is that revered institution, the New York Public Library. The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street houses a world-class collection of cookbooks, menus, and other culinary related materials.  Check out the blog Cooked Books run by librarian Rebecca Federman for a glimpse of the culinary wonders at NYPL. One of my favorite regular features is “Desert Island Cookbook.” In each post, Federman interviews a different New York personality about the cookbook that she or he would bring to a desert island.

Does this pique your interest in doing a little culinary research of your own? Check out some of DCPL’s resources.

For a classic culinary encyclopedia:

Larousse Gastronomique

(This is part of the non-circulating reference but well worth your time to page through.)

Something From the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950’s America by Laura Shapiro.

(A fascinating overview of an era full of contradictions and promise.)

On DVD there is…

The Meaning of Food.

Don’t miss…

The Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks.

(This is seriously hilarious!)

Published in 1825, The Physiology of Taste is an enduring classic (it has never gone out of print). Brillat-Savarin was a lawyer by profession with a lively interest in science, music and languages and, of course, food.  He wrote, “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.” You might agree with that statement, or you might not,  but you can read more of Brillat Savarin’s writing in:

Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History edited by Mark Kurlansky.


Jun 10 2010

Local, Organic, and Slow

by Jimmy L

Do you know where your food comes from?  Neither did I, until a couple of months ago; I used to buy food from the big supermarkets.  But, partially fueled by books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and movies like Food, Inc., there has been a recent surge of interest in this question of where our food comes from, and what chemicals have been put into it.  I’ve not read or seen these books or documentaries myself, as I have a huge fear of finding out all the horribly true facts that I’m totally happy ignoring.  However, I’ve started going to local organic farmers markets, which are cropping up all over the place.  Even if you didn’t care where your food comes from, it’s still a refreshing experience attending these markets.  Each farmer sells you his or her veggies, fruit, meat, milk, eggs, pastries and/or cheeses themselves.  I find it especially reassuring that each of my dozen eggs is of a different size and shape, which is the way it should be!  And they taste much better than grocery store bought eggs.  Also, I know that my vegetables are freshly harvested from Georgia clay often within the last 24 hours, instead of being trucked across the country from who knows where.  Here are some of the local organic farmers markets that I’m aware of.  If you know of any others in or around DeKalb County, please share with us in the comments section…

  • Decatur Farmers Market – there is one every Wednesday at the corner of Church and Commerce from 4pm to 7pm (Winter hours are 3pm to 6pm).  There’s also one run by the same people on Saturdays, from 9am to Noon across the street from Chic-Fil-A on N. McDonough.
  • East Lake Farmers Market – Saturdays from 9am to 1pm at the corner of Hosea L. Williams Dr SE & 2nd Ave SE.
  • East Atlanta Village Farmers Market – Thursdays 4pm to 8pm May thru November at 1231 Glenwood Ave (Village Hardware)

More books and movies about eating locally grown organic food that I haven’t read:


Apr 21 2010

My Favorite Foodies

by Jnai W

I love Food. I’ll be the first to own the fact that my love of Food has expanded my waist line and made my butt bigger but who cares? It’s not Food’s fault.  Today I’d like to take a moment to recognize some of my favorite fellow foodies, whether they be esteemed chefs or just really good people who like to eat.  Please consider the following food appreciators:

Jamie Oliver: I’ve just gotten hooked on his new ABC show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  Jamie Oliver, a.k.a “The Naked Chef” (yum!), is on a mission to save America from poor eating habits and overly-processed rubbish disguised as food. So far, based on the premiere episode, he has been met with stiff opposition from defensive locals, red-tape bound cafeteria ladies and school children who prefer breakfast pizza and strawberry-flavored milk over anything nutritious and normal colored. You’d have to watch the show to see if he can soften the cholesterol-caked hearts of the masses and start a food revolution. But you can trek down to The Library to check out books by The Naked Chef.

Nigella Lawson:  She is one of my favorite foodies and her story is rather remarkable to me. Not a trained chef or cook, Lawson is instead a journalist and food writer who began her career as a food critic.  She has long since become an icon in cookery and food appreciation in the U.K and the U.S. I like the fact that she takes a relaxed and loving approach to the culinary arts. She’s also gorgeous and sultry; truly a food romantic.

Justin Wilson: I remember as a kid watching cooking shows on PBS with my mother. Among such notable chefs as Martin Yan, Jacques Pepin and, of course, Julia Child is another favorite of mine, Justin Wilson. I remember being struck by the visage of a large man in a bow-tie and a thick, drawling Cajun accent. My siblings and I would mimic his catchphrase (“I gerr-own-tee!”) and mispronouncing Worcestershire sauce (“Whats-dis-here sauce?”). I was pleased when I noticed that the Library has several of his cookbooks, chock full of recipes for great Cajun cooking.

Top Chef:  As Bravo Television’s best reality show since Project Runway, Top Chef brings together contestants from around the country to compete for coveted prizes and the prestige of being crowned “Top Chef”.  My only gripe about this show has been the fact that, unlike standard cooking shows, recipes aren’t provided during the episode. Luckily, there are now at least 2 Top Chef cookbooks available, allowing fans to partake of some of the tasty-looking dishes.