Try Out That Cookbook Before You Buy It
Cooking is more than just putting food on the table. Cooking helps you explore cultures, it brings people together across generations, and help people relax. Whether people have been following their parents in the kitchen from a young age or learning how to cook on their own for the first time, the library is an unexpected — and delightful — kitchen helper made for all ages and skills.
Libraries buy books on a wide array of topics. Cookbooks are commonly found in library stacks and can be checked out by library patrons at any time. Cookbook collections in libraries are diverse. People may be surprised to know that newly published cookbooks can be found just as easily as cookbooks published throughout the ages. Smart cooks know that the library is the first place to visit when looking to try out a cookbook. This section of the library offers convenient access to recipes from all over.
Benefits of Library Browsing
While you many have the instinct to look online to order cookbooks or browse bookstores when trying out their next culinary dish, heading to your local library ends up being a smart option. The cookbook section is sometimes something that is stumbled upon during library visits. But here are a few reasons why checking out a cookbook from the library is a good idea:
- Borrowing the cookbook from the library gives you a chance to test it out and look through it before deciding to make a purchase.
- If you are looking for one or two specific recipes in a book, borrowing it from the library makes more sense.
- You can save money on cookbook purchases.
- You may be someone whose cookbooks do not leave your bookshelf once they’re purchased. Make use of the local library and circulate the cookbooks that come through your kitchen.
Libraries keep updated collections and have the ability to borrow from other libraries if they don’t have what you’re looking for. By taking advantage of your local library’s resources, you’ll also be able to utilize the interlibrary loan system. This means you could pick up new cookbooks quickly and find older cookbooks without much trouble.
Searching for Your Cookbook Needs
There are general ways to go about searching for useful cookbooks. The first step is obviously to head to the cookbook section of the library. If you are specifically looking for a title or subject, you can also visit the librarian’s help desk or do a quick search of the library catalog using computers onsite or from your home.
Cookbooks in the library can be organized in a few different ways. Many cookbooks are region specific and recipes are based out of food in a certain geographic area. For example, you can look for something as broad as European recipes or go city-specific and search for books that cover recipes from Florence, Italy.
Cuisine is also another way cookbooks can be organized. If you are looking to do a deep dive into your Korean heritage and find recipes you might’ve eaten growing up, you can specifically seek out Korean cookbooks. Cookbooks cover almost any type of food you can imagine which means you can also search for Italian food, Middle Eastern food, or even Southern food.
Some cookbooks were created to be very niche. This can be fun for chefs that are experimenting with a specific ingredient. Those who are interested in expanding their baking skills can look into cookbooks that only make desserts using filo dough. For those who love sweets, cookbooks solely covering recipes made from maple sugar are available. There are even cookbooks that have three-course meals designed around avocados, a trendy new ingredient many people interested in health are eating.
Foodies will be happy to find that cookbooks can also be organized by your favorite type of food. Whether you love pasta, cupcakes, or sushi, the library will be able to supply the perfect cookbook to satisfy your cravings.
Lastly, you can also search through collections based on your own expertise level. Browse through endless stacks to find the best quick and easy cookbooks or the best cookbook for beginners. It doesn’t take too long to find one that fits your needs and caters to the lifestyle you have.
Plenty of libraries across the country house cookbook collections suitable for the cookbook beginner or the seasoned chef. The J. Erik Jonsson Central Library has many bookshelves of cookbooks to explore, not to mention the 16,755 cookbooks they have access to through the Dallas Public Library system. The e-book collection adds to this. With nearly 9,000 cookbooks available digitally, patrons have extensive options to choose from. The library is always adding dozens of new titles on a weekly basis. Collections as large as this are expansive and include older cookbooks that go far back in time.
Cookbooks used to only be intended for those in the upper class. Older cookbooks consisted of more than just recipes. Ancient collections gave instructions on how to concoct medicine in addition to dinner ideas. There’s a number of libraries today that allow patrons to look through these older recipes. The Library of Congress houses Libro de arte coquinaria, a 15th-century Italian manuscript written by a well-known chef. The Free Library of Philadelphia owns a copy of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. This cookbook consists of many household recipes commonly used in British kitchens. This book was so popular that many of the United States’ Founding Fathers owned copies. For those interested in exploring ancient cookbooks and trying out recipes of the past, use the Atlas Obscura to start your search.
Library collections aren’t just made up of old recipes and trendy, new cookbooks. Libraries like The Lepper Library in Lisbon are also interested in preserving the culture of their local community. The library board of directors, Carol Deichler, came up with the idea to add a specialized collection of cookbooks to their Genealogy Room. This collection will be made up of cookbooks from community organizations like local churches or social clubs. The idea came from her own family’s experiences and the library is currently accepting new additions to their collection.
The beauty of cookbooks is the level of knowledge that can be shared about different cultures and heritages. The Penn Libraries at the University of Pennsylvania houses collections of cookbooks specific to Middle Eastern recipes. These cookbooks are integrated with courses offered by the university. Students last semester used cookbooks in the library’s collection to study not just recipes but also history and trade routes. The university also has cookbooks featuring African, South Asian, and Egyptian cuisine among many others.
It is now just as easy to search through online collections as it is to look for physical copies of cookbooks. The Library of Congress offers a great research guide for community cookbooks organized by place or time. The Princeton University Library is another great library resource to look into when searching culinary collections. In addition to their own collections, they also include a library resource that shares cookbook collections with different host institutions.
Library Cookbook Book Clubs
Participating in cookbook book clubs are also becoming a common leisure activity. These book clubs work similarly to traditional book clubs. In traditional book clubs, members of the community gather for discussions about a chosen book on a consistent basis. Cookbook book clubs have a similar structure. These book clubs meet consistently and choose themes to center their recipes around. Members are encouraged to try the recipes out and bring food to share. These meetings are a great way for community members to get to know each other and try a variety of foods. As members eat they also engage in discussions on the recipes and the cookbooks where they found the recipes. Some libraries help facilitate these events by offering meeting spaces and providing beverages and utensils.
During recent times, libraries have also worked virtual events into the schedule so that patrons are able to continue exploring their hobbies and interests from the safety of their homes. The Chilmark Library has created the Sweet Book Club which features virtual discussions on pastry making by baker Joanne Chang. Participants are encouraged to make or bring pictures of their own pastries. The featured book during the event is Pastry Love which was created for those who enjoy all aspects of baking from kneading and stirring to taking in all the smells and flavors of pastries.
The Hartford County Public Library has been hosting similar events. Their virtual cookbook events center around Maryland’s history and helps attendees learn about local history and find traditional recipes from around the area. This event also helps introduce the public to the Enoch Pratt Library’s “Maryland Department” cookbook collection with the help of the resident librarian.
Head to the Library — in person or online
If you are tired of endless internet searches for new recipes and inspiration, the cookbook section in your local library is your best resource. Libraries offer a variety of free resources to the community. Whether this means you are checking out a cookbook to try out a few recipes or looking to pick up the latest release from your favorite chef or baker, the library will become a convenient and accessible option for you. Many people realize that libraries are the place to head when they’re looking to explore and expand upon their knowledge. Now you can see that libraries are also ideal places for budding and seasoned chefs.