Recommended reads for classic and brand-new cookbooks and food memoirs.
“Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.” -Julia Child
Holiday cookbooks on display at the Main Library.
‘Tis the season for… Holiday Cookbooks! Not everyone needs a holiday for an excuse to sleuth out mouth-watering recipes. But if you’re thankful for cooking, and you aim to embrace the whole season of crafting pies, cakes, and turkey (and turkey alternatives and cranberry relish and latkes and squash and stuffing and gorgeous cookies)…or whatever special treats you like: we can fill your bellies with words of instruction. Click on our holiday cookbook reading list here.
Home cooking. Each fall yields wonderful harvests from Maine farms: brussels sprouts lined up on green stalks, like processions of tiny cabbages; savory, dark-ringed yellow delicata squash; sweet orange pumpkins waiting to be pie. And from the sea: buttery lobster, briny oysters. Find Maine recipes for your Maine-sourced ingredients here, including compilations of local recipes from our towns and islands, as well as recent cookbooks from Portland businesses like Standard Bakery and the Harbor Fish Market.
“Potatoes are one of the last things to disappear, in times of war, which is probably why they should not be forgotten in times of peace.” -M.F.K. Fisher
Food memoirs. If it’s food stories and the wit and wisdom of some of the finest food writers that you love- like M.F.K. Fisher’s spirited defense of writing about food in times of hardship, in her classic How To Cook a Wolf; Eddie Huang’s sharply funny tales of food and life in Fresh Off the Boat; Lucy Knisley’s lovely drawings and stories in her new graphic novel Relish; or Daniel Duane’s thoughts on How to Cook Like A Man (for his family)- try this list. Read for thoughts on food and friendship, food and culture, food and farming, food and wartime, food and identity, and LOTS of food and love.
In a year of special focus on reading women, it’s meaningful to hear this month that 17-year-old Malala Yousafzi has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 (shared with Kailash Satyarthi). Yousafzi’s memoir, “I Am Malala,” tells her incredible story as a passionate advocate for education for girls. Find it in print at PPL here, or check it out as an ebook!
A rich crop of other memoirs and essays are being published in the last months of 2014. As a City of Readers team member here at the library, I’m engaged with many of the conversations being sparked around new (and old) books. Some issues are timeless: is a writer-who-happens-to-be-a-woman a woman writer, or just…a writer? Authors Cheryl Strayed and Benjamin Moser tackle these and other ideas in a recent New York Times Book Review article, “Is This a Golden Age for Women Essayists?”
To help you celebrate the Golden Age, here are some of Portland Public Library’s own New Nonfiction releases. Click on the titles below for more info:
This list should stop somewhere…but it feels like a good thing that it could go on and on! Happy reading.
(For more recommendations, to ask questions, or to request books and other materials over the phone, please contact your branch, the Reader’s Advisory Desk at the Main Library at 871-1700 ext. 705, or the Reference Desk at the Main Library at 871-1700 ext. 725).
Portland poet Megan Grumbling at the Port City Poems reading.
Last Tuesday, October 7, a group of local poets drew a crowd of 91 to the Rines Auditorium. Anita Clearfield, Wil Gibson, Megan Grumbling, Claire Hersom, Annaliese Jakimides, Michele Leavitt, John McVeigh, Edward J. Rielly, Betsy Sholl, David Stankiewicz, Sally Woolf-Wade, and Anna Bat-Chai Wrobel read from their poetry. They were introduced by Marcia F. Brown, Portland Poet Laureate and editor of the anthology Port City Poems. It was an evening full of thoughtfulness and humor, celebrating Portland but also touching on other themes.
For those of you who couldn’t be there, I took notes.
Ed Rielly read his poem, “The Sea Dogs Come Out of the Corn.” The poet muses at a baseball game. “ ‘Is this heaven?’ I ask my wife, joking…‘No, it’s Portland, Maine.’ ” One of Wil Gibson’s poems was written as a love letter to Portland. “I miss your freckles,” Wil Gibson read aloud (addressing spurned Illinois, a former home) “but Portland, she is different. She is the most amazing, attentive lover…I have the scratches on my back to prove it.”
Sally Woolf-Wade read poetry on island life.
Other images of Portland rose, as sweetly and sharply, out of the readings. Megan Grumbling’s poem, “Landing,” evoked the golden light caught in the curved windows of a staircase at the Portland Museum of Art, a place to return to in deep winter. One of Claire Hersom’s poems spoke to a favorite wharf-haunt: J’s Oyster Bar. John McVeigh paid homage to the horses that pulled the old engines (“The spokes of the wheel are a blur”) of the Portland Fire Department in 1912. Later, David Stankiewicz’s Saint Augustine-inspired poetry moved the audience from Bailey Island’s Cribstone Bridge to travels on the Downeaster: “If I sit very still, might the conductor overlook my transgression?”
Annaliese Jakimides before the crowd.
The poetry that resonated could be both beautiful and stark, as in Michele Leavitt’s excerpt from a cycle of poems on Hepatitis C. Or the poems imparted unapologetic knowledge: what comes to us may come as a surprise. “Because,” Anita Clearfield noted, “what happiness have we ever had that we asked for?”
And there was laughter, as the poets touched on religion, on menopause imagined or real, on the Old Port…“At last I’m old and wrinkled, celibate and wise,” read Michele Leavitt, tongue-in-cheekily. “I keep trying to write these spiritual poems that won’t be obnoxious,” quipped Betsy Sholl. The evening ended more seriously, with Anna Bat-Chai Wrobel’s poem on Alexander Hamilton. “I am afraid to do as Alexander Hamilton did: predict the future.” Nonetheless, Wrobel noted: “I think I know which duel to fight.”
I walked home that night through the city, thinking of Wil Gibson’s words: “Portland: she is the family I always wanted.”