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Local libraries are valuable resource for home kitchens |

Local libraries are valuable resource for home kitchens

What’s cooking at the library? Why, an entire buffet of food-related items and programs, that’s what.

And we’re celebrating that smorgasbord during National Library Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, which continues through Saturday.

Books, magazines, and DVDs are some of the culinary resources you’d expect to find. But the varied food-related components of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library system address “all the different ways we can look at the word ‘nourishment,’” said Business Technology Manager David Topoleski.

As a starter, there are programs for every demographic. Get some tips for preparing smaller portions to feed one or two people, or bring the family to a session about campfire cooking. Teens and younger children can learn to make their own snacks. You could even become a member of the Cooking Club, which welcomes food enthusiasts to potlucks centered around a theme. (To see the full list, go to

Authors! Authors!, the popular speakers series co-sponsored with The Blade and Buckeye Broadband, also plays a part in the library’s food programming. Activist Michael Pollan talked about diet and the agricultural industry at the Stranahan Theater on March 27. French chef Jacques Pépin and his daughter Claudine, a sommelier, gave a cooking demonstration there in 2015.

But libraries don’t just teach about food. They can also be a safe haven to ensure that kids under the age of 18 get enough to eat.

“We work with the Children’s Hunger Alliance,” said Meg Delaney, Main Library manager, to serve nutritious meals at 4 p.m. weekdays and noon Saturdays during the school year. There is even a library café for the public to enjoy at the Main Library. It’s open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

But there is still so much more to the cooking curriculum.

Information and knowledge are what libraries traditionally provide for patrons, said Natalie Dielman, programming specialist at the Way Public Library in Perrysburg. But her facility, like the Toledo library, strives to be creative about it, featuring fun classes to teach frosting and fondant decoration techniques and also hosting an annual cake contest with categories for all ages.

The Way Library even serves up pans to bake those cakes in, too.

The Baker’s Way collection, initiated by Mary Turain, who donated 130 pans to the library, has grown to about 200 now. You can borrow kids’ favorites, holiday motifs, television characters, sports and religious themes, and miscellaneous shapes ranging from a graduation cap to a guitar to a tractor, and even standard pans for making tiered or loaf cakes. (For the complete list, go to

The Bedford Branch Library of the Monroe County Library System has three 4-by-8 foot garden spaces for anyone with a Monroe County library card to borrow for the growing season, March through October. Only one of those spaces is being used at this point, said Jodi Russ, community librarian for the Bedford Branch, 8575 Jackman Rd. in Temperance. The library also has tools to borrow for its garden spots as well as a rain barrel for watering what’s planted. For more information, visit or call 734-847-6747.

But don’t forget the mainstay of any library’s food-focused fare: cookbooks.

Joyce Smith, a librarian in the business technology division of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, estimates the system’s collection to be at least 1,000 books. She said that cooking and baking constitute chemistry.

“It’s applied science, that’s why it’s in our department,” she said.

To help navigate the vast assortment, Ms. Smith has put together a user-friendly hand-out called Cooking by the Numbers that organizes all of the topics in the collection by cuisine or theme.

Often, finding old, beloved recipes for patrons can be like a search for buried treasure for Ms. Smith. It’s “the thrill of the hunt,” she said, of assisting people whose taste memories are calling to them but who need assistance finding just the right version of the dish they want. One time, she said, a man had come in seeking the recipe for a particular apple cake that he remembered. She helped him to find it, and he reported that he was then able to bake the treat and share it with a group at his church.

“Food is so important to people’s memories,” Ms. Smith said. “It’s so strong.”

Community cookbooks — which local churches, social organizations, and other groups often produce as fund-raisers — are rich with Toledo-area history and are “super well represented” from many decades, said Mr. Topoleski.

Ms. Smith likes the newer canning and preserving cookbooks that offer more contemporary flavors. It’s interesting to compare these with older books, she said, noting the difference between food storage as a creative hobby versus a time when it was a necessity.

She also likes books devoted to cast iron cookware, which is seeing a resurgence, and those for easy one-pan dinners. Her colleague at the Main Library, Linda Fayerweather, has made use of sheet pan cookbooks recently, borrowing several to test them out before committing to buying those she preferred.

More people seem to be looking for international cookbooks, Ms. Smith said, as they seek new tastes and try unfamiliar ingredients. Patrons at the King Road branch, she pointed out, tend to request books about health, vegetarianism, and specialized diets such as Paleo.

“One of the really interesting things about this collection is that it is really helpful for new situations,” Ms. Delaney said. “Maybe they got a new gadget or their family circumstances have changed.”

Perhaps people are still trying to figure out the Instant Pots they were given at Christmas, or someone’s been diagnosed with celiac disease or has decided to become vegan.

“We want to be that resource,” Ms. Delaney said. “We want to be supportive with the collection as people discover more about themselves.”

For National Library Week: Kartoffel Salat (German Potato Salad)

The Blade/Katie Rausch


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Kartoffel Salat (German Potato Salad)

“This is the recipe I used during the years I was in charge of making the Potato Salad for the German American Festival,” wrote Ilona Yark, who served as co-editor with Georgia Mahon of the community cookbook published by St. Hyacinth Church in 1993.

6 to 7 medium potatoes (not bakers)

¼ cup chopped onions

2 strips bacon, browned and drained, chopped

Chopped parsley


⅓ cup cider vinegar (may add more to taste)

¼ cup water

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

White pepper

1 Knorr brand bouillion cube or 2 small cubes

Boil potatoes in skins in salted water until tender. Peel and slice very thin while warm and layer with onions in bowl.

Bring the dressing ingredients to a boil and pour over potatoes and onions. Stir well and let marinate at room temperature.

When ready to serve, add bacon bits and sprinkle with parsley. Should be served at slightly above room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings

Source: Adapted from Ilona Yark, What’s Cookin?

For National Library Week: Pollan Signature Salad

The Blade/Katie Rausch


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Pollan Signature Salad

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” says Michael Pollan, who was a featured speaker in March as part of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Authors! Authors! program.


⅓ cup white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon raspberry, champagne, or sherry vinegar

1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

⅓ cup grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper


5 to 7 ounces mesclun or mixed baby greens

½ cup chopped caramelized walnuts

½ Bosc pear, cut lengthwise, cored, thinly sliced

⅓ cup shaved Parmesan cheese

For the dressing: In a glass jar with a lid or in a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegars, mustard, grapeseed oil, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Shake the jar vigorously or whisk in the bowl to emulsify.

For the salad: Place the mesclun in a large salad bowl. Pour on half the dressing and toss the greens to coat. Add the walnuts, pear, and more dressing to taste (taking care not to overdress) and toss again. Top with the Parmesan cheese shavings and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: Adapted from Corky, Lori, Dana, and Tracy Pollan, The Pollan Family Table

For National Library Week: Vegan Tomatillo-Poblano White Beans

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Vegan Tomatillo-Poblano White Beans

“These tangy beans can be used as a side, in a burrito or on top of your favorite grain,” writes Kathy Hester in her book that showcases both increasingly popular plant-based dishes and the trendy Instant Pot.


1½ cups dried Great Northern beans

1½ cups water

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Salt and pepper, to taste


2 cups chopped tomatillos

1 cup chopped poblano, seeds and stem removed

1 cup chopped onion

½ jalapeño without seeds

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

Soak the beans in water to cover by at least 2 inches for 8 to 12 hours, then drain.

For the sauté, add the tomatillos, poblano, onion, and jalapeño to your blender or food processor. Pulse until the vegetables are in tiny pieces, but not puréed.

Use the sauté setting over normal or medium heat, and pour in the blender contents; add the cumin and stir to combine. Cook for about 4 minutes to remove the edge off the onions and make the cumin more fragrant.

For the pressure cooker, add the beans, water, and oregano to the sauté mixture and stir to combine. Put the lid on and make sure that the steam release handle is sealed. Cook on manual setting at high pressure and set for 35 minutes.

Allow the pressure to release naturally.

If there is still more liquid in the pot than you’d like to have, switch back to the sauté setting and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: Adapted from Kathy Hester, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook for Your Instant Pot

Contact Mary Bilyeu at, and follow her at​thebladefoodpage, bladefoodpage on Instagram, or @BladeFoodPage on Twitter.

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