National Culinary Arts Month

This month-long celebration held each July promotes awareness of professional cooks and chefs and their contributions to new culinary trends and dining excellence. It’s also a good time to offer food-related programming at your library.

Here are some cooking-related programs libraries have offered that you can adapt for your own National Culinary Arts Month events:

  • Grande Prairie Public Library in Hazel Crest, Illinois, had professional chefs from the USA Cooking Camps teach how to whip up soul food favorites; recipes and food samples were provided.

  • The Newport Beach (Calif.) Public Library also partnered with the pros in a gourmet culinary series. Participants watched live demonstrations, sampled new foods, and met with the top chefs in Orange County, including Southern California Restaurant Writers’ Chef of the Year, Dennis Brask.

  • Deschutes (Ore.) Public Library offered comfort food cooking demonstrations, with chef Rose Makena preparing of some of her favorite comfort foods, including roasted butternut squash soup, chopped winter salad with blue cheese and pears, and oven-roasted fall fruits with ice cream for dessert.

  • The Cape May (N.J.) County Library helped participants “Slow Down and Enjoy the Winter” with a cooking demonstration featuring Chef John Webersinn. The demonstration focused on using crock pots to create delicious and economical meals.

  • Yorba Linda (Calif.) Public Library hosted local chef Renee Fontes for a healthy cooking demonstration that showed patrons how to make food that is low-fat, low-calorie, nutritious, and scrumptious.

  • St. John’s County (Fla.) Public Library also focused on healthy cooking. Marian Thompson, certified health and nutrition coach, give a presentation on whole foods that are free of dyes and preservatives. There was also a discussion about how what you eat can be a prescription for better health and better living.

  • The Fairmont City (Ill.) Library Center offered a cooking class for Latina women that focused on Christmas dinner. The women prepared a traditional American holiday meal with a non-traditional flair.

  • Salem (Conn.) Public Library focused on another holiday—Valentine’s Day—with a cooking demonstration featuring Diane Gardner, author of What’s Cooking in Connecticut? What’s Cooking in New England? and What’s Cooking in Madison? For those of you who worry you don’t have the facilities to host cooking, note that Salem Public Library does not have a kitchen; instead, the chef brought her own crock pot and seared steak in a pan on the library’s hot plate.

  • Another option for libraries without kitchens is to collaborate. Mason (Ohio) Public Library teamed with a local Whole Foods to offer a series of classes, including “Health Starts Here,” “Chocolate Tasting,” “Kids Can Cook,” “Dinner on a Shoestring,” “Learn to Love Tofu,” and “We Love Local.”

  • Or take it outside: Corona (Calif.) Public Library offered grilling demonstrations as part of their Take a Hike! Health & Fitness Expo.

  • Little Elm Public Library pushed culinary limits with their Food Fear Factor competition featuring fortune cookies, astronaut cinnamon apple wedges, potted meat, baby food, smoked oysters, sardines in hot sauce, prepared horseradish, goat cheese, pickled okra, pickled pig’s feet, anchovies, and dried larvae.

  • Finally, just for kids, Flint Public Library in Middleton, Massachussetts, hosted “Cooking with Katie.” Children ages nine through fourteen were taught new techniques during a hands-on program.

You could also try holding your own Edible Book Show. Check out entries from shows held by Woodland Pattern Book Center; the Seattle Edible Book Festival, Western New York Book Arts Collective; and the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, Connecticut. (You can find many more by Googling “edible book show.”) Or, if you already have an show in your area, consider holding an edible book workshop as the Milwaukee (Wisc.) Public Library did.

Finally, some additional resources to help you get started:

  • Want to involve kids and their parents? Westerville (Ohio) Public Library offers a number of resources for cooking with kids.

  • How about a book discussion focusing on food? Check out Morton Grove (Ill.) Public Library’s list of edible fiction.

  • The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has an extensive list of food-related resources, including food and cooking magazines; course and ingredient; in the media; food research and policy, holidays and celebrations; local food, farmers’ markets, and Pittsburgh specialties; quick and easy cooking; vegetarian choices; and world cuisines.

  • Newark (N.J.) Public Library has gathered an wide list of food-related topics on the Web, covering baking, beverages, ethnic and international food, food history, recipe collections, restaurant guides, and vegan/vegetarian.