Narratives with Recipes!

Enjoy a good book and try a new homemade treat with these novels and biographies that delve into the culinary world!

Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan is a heartwarming story of Issy Randall realizing her dream of opening a café. Growing up with her Grandpa Joe, who ran several bakeries, baking was in her blood. So, after being laid off from her job, she decided to turn to what she knew how to do best.

Don’t forget to check out the next book in the series: Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe. Jenny Colgan has many other culinary-themed fiction novels to check out from other series as well, and they are also available to download on hoopla. 

My Life in France by Julia Child is the fascinating autobiography of Julia Child, a tall girl from Pasadena, California who we know as the celebrated French Chef from her PBS cooking show and her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which she wrote with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. It is an endearing story about how she met and fell in love with her husband, Paul Child, who worked as a diplomat. They had to travel to France for his work, and with the desire to learn how to cook for her husband and falling in love with the cuisine of France, Julia was inspired to take courses at Cordon Bleu Cooking School. The rest is history.

Julie and Julia became a movie, directed by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep, based on the books My Life in France and Julie Powell’s memoir, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. It won a Golden Globe Award. Powell’s book chronicles the year of embarking on a project to cook a recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking every day for a year. Frustrated with her job as a secretary, this cooking project and the successful blog she writes about it gives her a whole new direction in life. Check out the ebook on Overdrive or the audiobook on hoopla.

Ann Mah’s impressive travelogue, Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love From a Year in Paris, details the regional food of France as she travels the country. Stationed in France with her husband, who is a diplomat, Ann Mah researches the traditional food of France, referencing the work of Julia Child. Ann Mah is a writer for The New York Times travel section, a journalist, and a novelist.

Lavender Blue Murder by Laura Childs is 21st in the Tea Shop Mysteries featuring Theodosia Browning, proprietor of Indigo Tea Shop. Prolific writer Laura Childs’ cozy series is set in Charleston, South Carolina. There are likeable regular characters, recipes, and, of course, a mystery to solve. Attending an English-style game bird hunt with her friend Drayton, there is a murder of the host who has been shot and his widow presses Theodosa to help solve the crime despite Theodosia’s detective boyfriend, Pete Riley, wanting her to stear clear of the investigation.

Lavendar Blue Murder can be found as an ebook and audiobook. There are more titles from the series accessible in Overdrive. Check out the full series in NoveList here. The first book in the series is Death by Darjeeling.

Coconut Layer Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is the 25th book in the popular Hannah Swensen Mystery series, so there are many volumes to enjoy for new fans. This cozy mystery is set in Lake Eden, Minnesota. Hannah Swensen owns a bakery shop, The Cookie Jar, and finds herself solving mysteries on the side. In Coconut Layer Cake Murder, Hannah tries to go on vacation with her mother to California when her sisters’s boyfriend is suddenly a suspect in a murder case of an old high school friend. Hannah also has to move in with her old love interest, Norman Rhodes. Recipes, of course, are included!

You can see the list of the Hannah Swensen Mystery series in NoveList with your library card. The first volume in the series is the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. There are titles also available to download by Joanne Fluke from hoopla.

Staff Picks: Cookbooks for Quarantine

Our dining experience looks a little different these days. No longer able to dine out at our favorite restaurants or find exactly the ingredients we need at the store, we’ve become increasingly dependent upon ourselves to cook at home using what we have. For some, this has been an opportunity to perfect culinary skills and try out those hours-long cooking projects that you never usually have the time to complete. For others, this has been a crash-course in using pantry staples and becoming acquainted with their kitchens. 

But no matter your skill level or appetite, we’ve got your cookbook needs covered to add some flavor and spice to your home-cooking journey, all free with your Abbot Public Library card. There are over 1,000 titles available in our digital collections, from regional cuisine (Tex-Mex, Korean, French, Palestinian, Oaxacan), to diet-specific (Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Whole30), to pop culture-inspired (Anne of Green Gables? Literary wizards? Questlove?), and everything in between! If hundreds of cookbooks seems like a little much to swallow, these five highly-recommended cookbooks are a great place to start:

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat & Wendy MacNaughton

If you take only one title away from this list, let this be the one. Part textbook, part cookbook, and highly enjoyable (think on-the-nightstand, bedtime-read enjoyable) Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is like getting a cooking lesson from your very kind, very knowledgeable best friend who only wants you to succeed at cooking and life. Certified Good Human™ Samin Nosrat doesn’t just want you to cook her recipes — she wants you to have enough confidence in the kitchen to go off-book and use its namesake elements to make great food every time. Complete with Wendy MacNaughton’s delightfully informative illustrations — no staged food photography here — this is a guide you’ll turn to time and time again.

Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs by Julia Turshen

Julia Turshen wants you to relax. And if cooking isn’t your idea of relaxing, well then, she wants to change that for you, too. In the same philosophical vein of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Turshen posits that, in having the necessary know-how to create the daily ritual we call mealtime, we can feel grounded and find joy. She urges us to celebrate our cooking triumphs, and gives you all of the tools and tricks to make simple substitutions with unpretentious ingredients for wholesome, tasty meals. For anyone in need of a small victory (see what we did there?), this one’s for you.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Never have vegetables looked better than between the pages of London-based Ottolenghi’s stunning vegetarian classic. Never fear carnivores: Ottolenghi infuses his vegetable recipes with such vibrant and bold Eastern Mediterranean flavors, you won’t even miss the meat. A great source for homecooks looking to toss a little more tasty veggie power into their meals, and for vegetarian experts to up their plant-based game. 

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji López-Alt

The Food Lab, based on López-Alt’s popular Serious Eats column of the same name, is for the Good Eats-style food science types out there. From mac and cheese to turkey, Lopéz-Alt gives you foolproof recipes for all of your favorite American classics, and the solid science behind making them perfectly. This is an awesome resource for people who don’t just love to cook and eat, but are curious about hows and whys of what’s on their plate, too.

Pastry Love: A Baker’s Journal of Favorite Recipes by Joanne Chang

You didn’t think we’d leave out dessert, did you? Joanne Chang, James Beard award-winning baker and owner of Boston’s famed Flour bakeries, presents 125 of her favorite pastries and desserts in this comprehensive guide. From lemon sugar cookies to passion fruit crepe cake, there is a recipe to suit every sweet craving and skill level. Replete with pro tips, tricks, and techniques, this will quickly become a staple of your baking book collection. 

For more cooking guidance, you can also stream video lectures through Abbot Public Library’s Indieflix service, which has a section on Food & Wine.

Kids in the Kitchen: A Curated Collection of Cookbooks and Activities to do at Home

Our friends at the Boston Children’s Museum, the Museum of Science, and Institute of Contemporary Art have been hard at work creating fun and educational STEAM content that you can do at home, even in the kitchen. We’ve rounded up the best-of-the-best kitchen science activities for the whole family to try!

Watch Boston Children’s Museum’s Kitchen Science for Kids YouTube series, which includes how-to videos on making butter, composting with kitchen scraps, and fermenting your own veggies. Their Beyond the Chalkboard site is another great resource for food-related activities, from becoming an effective food detective, to designing a healthy dip for fruits and veggies, to making art with food. Be sure to also check out their daily activity archive for more wonderful and engaging content! 

At the Museum of Science, learn about acids and bases using blueberries and other ingredients in your kitchen! Take a peek at their #MOSatHome page for even more fun family STEM activities, virtual exhibits, and presentations (including a snake taking a bath!). 

And over at the Institute of Contemporary Art, check out their guide for eco-dyeing fabric for crafting using fruit and veggie scraps and other kitchen materials. Interested in more great activities? Their Art Lab at home has everything from DIY flip books to virtual quilts (maybe made with all that fabric you just eco-dyed).

After you’ve tried these awesome activities, work on those kitchen and nutrition skills with this curated list of cookbooks for junior chefs:

On hoopla:

Stir Crack Whisk Bake: A Little Book about Little Cakes by America’s Test Kitchen

This interactive board book walks little bakers through making the tiniest of sweet treats — cupcakes!

Plant, Cook, Eat!: A Children’s Cookbook by Joe Archer & Caroline Craig

This cookbook takes you from the garden to the kitchen with handy tips & tricks for starting a kitchen garden and how to turn your harvest into healthy, delicious, kid-friendly meals.

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids by Liz Lee Heinecke 

Using basic kitchen ingredients, everyone from toddlers to big kids can whip up these exciting experiments at home!

On Libby:

Cooking Class by Deanna F. Cook

Designed for 6- to 12-year-olds, this instructive cookbook teaches budding mini chefs basic kitchen techniques and over 50 yummy recipes.

National Geographic Kids Cookbook by Barton Seaver

Part craft and activity book, part how-to and cookbook, master chef Barton Seaver’s National Geographic Kids Cookbook teaches you how to start a kitchen garden, host a family cooking competition, and everything in between.

On hoopla & Libby:

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids

From the pros at America’s Test Kitchen come over 750 kid-tested and approved recipes for all skill levels with the goal of empowering young chefs to feel confident in the kitchen.

On Overdrive and hoopla

The Forest Feast for Kids by Erin Gleeson 

*a hoopla Bonus Borrow through today

This colorful cookbook includes the most kid-friendly recipes from the vegetarian hit The Forest Feast

Comfort Food TV

Are you craving a little cinematic culinary comfort? Longing to savour a sumptuous series? The Abbot Public Library has curated a select menu of foodie-approved film and television fare just for our patrons! If you’re in the mood for a side of romance with an at-home dinner date, you may just try Ang Lee’s Eat, Drink, Man, Woman or Chocolat (this one starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, and Judi Dench). Or perhaps you’d like to escape our troubled present and time-travel to a Victorian dining room with Christopher Kimball in Fannie’s Last Supper, a recreation of one of Fannie Farmer’s decadent 12-course meals. We invite you to sample all of these films and more from our library-curated film collection on hoopla2020 APL Comfort Food Cinema

For some tasty kitchen-sink drama, you might also try Acorn TV’s series Delicious or Pie in the Sky; to sample menus from great British country houses of the past, take a look at Lords and Ladles. Just open your RBDigital app and search for the titles!

If your tastes run to food-filled adventure, then tune in to another of the library’s special hoopla collections: 2020 APL Comfort Food TV. Here, you can sink your teeth into some food/travel documentaries like Paul & Nick’s Big American Food Trip or No Passport Required. If tea is, well, your cup of tea, travel round the world to learn all about it with Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup of Tea on Acorn TV (again, search the title in your RBDigital app). Or get in the kitchen and get your hands messy with the pros of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country–further selections to be found in the hoopla 2020 APL Comfort Food TV collection. Your culinary quest awaits!

If you’re eager to tickle your tastebuds with these offerings (and much more) but have not yet signed up for hoopla or Acorn TV, please take a look at our FAQ page to get started. Bon appetit!