Cooking with the Library
If it doesn’t seem logical to connect cooking with libraries, we have some news for you: Not only is it logical, it’s popular, even during the pandemic. Libraries across the country offered in-person cooking classes before COVID, and many of those have gone digital, providing much-needed fun, distraction, and camaraderie during lockdowns. Garden City Public Library in New York has Summer Recipes with Chef Rob Scott, a series of cooking demonstrations complete with recipes; St. Louis County Library combined book groups with mocktail recipes; The Verona library system in New Jersey has virtual kids’ cooking classes; and in Springfield, Massachusetts, the library coordinates an email-based cooking club. These are only a few examples of what’s out there.
To learn more, we spoke with Stacie Larson, director and CEO of the Maitland Public Library in Florida, and Kami Bumgardner, youth services assistant in Maitland, about the cooking programs they offer and why they’re important.
Maitland had an active roster of cooking classes long before the pandemic arrived. “They were in person, and in a very makeshift way,” said Larson. “We have these six-foot resin tables, and at their very highest level, they’re kitchen-counter height. We would put two of those together at the front of the room. We’ve improved since then. But in 2013 we had a three-burner hotplate, variable heat, an electric skillet, two toaster ovens and microwaves. In 2014, we got a grant to build a proper demonstration kitchen. It’s got a two-burner induction range built into the counter. We set the tables up facing into the kitchen, but it’s got an actual oven and an actual range. it doesn’t wobble when you chop vegetables.”