Eat.Enjoy.Live.: Events offer chance to indulge culinary cravings

5/11/2017 | Debbie Gardner

Category: May

Area foodies, rejoice! The month of May is ripe with events to engage, enlighten and tempt your taste buds.

Libraries get cookin’

Reading about, talking about and of course, sampling great cookbook recipes has become a big draw for many local public libraries. Here’s a roundup of the tasty discussions taking place this month:

Summer brunch ideas: on May 13 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. East Longmeadow Public Library Eats (ELPL Eats) will host its final meeting of the season, sampling and discussing recipes from “Beach House Brunch” by Lei Shisak.

“It's out last one until September. We meet next on September 9th,” Lyndsay Johnson, adult services librarian, said about the popular gathering of local cooking enthusiasts.

This group is open to the public, copies of the book are usually available at the circulation desk, and new members are welcome. For more info contact Johnson at 525-5400 ext. 1508 or email her at

The East Longmeadow Public Library is located at 60 Center Square in East Longmeadow.

A taste of France: On May 15 from 12:30 to 2 p.m., the Longmeadow Library Cookbook club will meet to sample recipes from, and discuss “Heart and Soul of the Kitchen” by famed French Chef and Public Television cooking show personality Jacques Pepin. Open to the public, but registration required, and sessions fill quickly. Call 565-4181, ext. 1620. The Longmeadow Public Library is located at 693 Longmeadow St.

Salad day: On May 17 from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the Let’s Get Cookin’ cookbook group at the East Forest Park branch of the Springfield Public Library will meet to sample and discuss favorite salad recipes.

“We’ve been, for the past couple of years running an annual cooking together event – we’ve done things like a chocolate tasting and cheese tasting and a soup swap that was very popular,” Branch Supervisor Linda Grodofsky said, adding that there have always been enthusiastic patrons willing to contribute to their tastings and share recipes for all foodie events at branch. “We decided we would [host the events] every other month [and] the bi-monthly series, Let’s Get Cooking started in January.”

Grodofsky said interested individuals should contact her at 263-6836 for information on the next recipe theme. The East Forest Park branch library is located at 122 Island Pond Road.

“Smitten Kitchen” recipes and more: On May 22, the Longmeadow Public Library expands its popular cookbook club series with an evening group from 6 to 7:30 p.m., sharing recipes from and discussing “Smitten Kitchen” by Deb Perelman.

“Our afternoon group is so popular that we had requests to start an evening one. Adult Services Librarian Barbara Fitzgerald said. “This is our second meeting of the evening one.”  

Fitzgerald said the evening cookbook club already has “20 people registered and we have a couple of weeks to go.” She added area libraries see these cookbook clubs as “a good way for us to promote our collection of cookbooks – we always choose a book that s available at our area libraries.”

Fitzgerald added she also knows members of the Storrs cookbook clubs often frequent the cookbook events at other libraries because “They just love to cook!”

The evening cookbook club at Storrs Library is open to the public, but registration required, and sessions fill quickly. Call 565-4181, ext. 1620, for more info and to sign up. The Longmeadow Public Library is located at 693 Longmeadow St.

Appetizers and dips: The Wilbraham Cookbook Club gathers on May 30 from 6 to 7 p.m. with a focus on appetizers, hors d’oeuvres and dips for its May meeting. This is a cook’s choice event, attendees are asked to call Adult Services Librarian Mary Bell at 596-6141 or email her at by May 25 and let her know what recipe you are planning to bring to avoid duplicates. The Wilbraham Public Library is located at 25 Crane Park Drive.

The history of cookbooks

On May 20 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Springfield Museums presents Leverett cookbook author and Amherst Bulletin food writer Claire Hopley in a talk about “New England Women and their Innovative Cookbooks.” Tickets to her talk are $25 for museum members, $29 for non-members. To reserve a seat call the Museum School at 413–263– 6800, ext. 377 or 382. 

Hopley told Reminder Publications her talk would explore the evolution of the cookbook in New England, and the independent spirit of the women from Colonial times through the 20th century who penned them.

According to Hopley, the colony’s first cookbooks – the earliest of which was published by Amelia Simmons in Hartford, Connecticut in 1796 – were born out of necessity in more ways than one.

“When the first colonists came to New England and other parts of the colonies, obviously they encountered different foods, but at the same time they didn’t have some of the things they were used to,” Hopley said. “One of the things they labored with for almost two centuries were that the only cookbooks were the notebooks some women kept, or cookbooks imported from England.”

She noted Summons’s slim “American Cookery” included “the first recipes for a whole bunch of things we take for granted now – Christmas cookies, pumpkin pie and the first recipe employing soaked ashes or wood fire ashes as a way of putting a rising agent into baked goods.”  

Hopley said the book was also important because Simmons was purportedly an orphan, and in her introduction noted she wrote the book for others like herself who might need to support themselves through domestic work – and did not have family to learn from or pass recipes down. Her cookbook went through five editions.

“That’s a real breakthrough for entrepreneurship because she financed the publication,” Hopley noted.

Other early cookbook authors – Northampton resident Lydia Childs who published “The Frugal Housewife” in 1832 and the most famous early New England cookbook author, Boston’s Fanny Farmer – combined those themes of necessity and entrepreneurship, which Hopley said she would expand upon during her talk.

“These women from New England captured what Americans were doing that was different from Europeans were doing, because the foods were different, and the conditions were different,” she said.

Hopley added she would bring her talk “up to date with mentions of other women from the area that have had a significant output of cookbooks” including Julia Childs.

An avid cook as well as a food historian and writer, Hopley said she also plans to prepare  “two or three” appropriate recipes for attendees to sample.

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