Written by Sara Quiroz
In this edition of library notes, we will highlight some selections from Local Roots Founder and Friend of the Library, Wen-Jay Ying. Do you know about Local Roots NYC? It is a CSA or community supported agriculture connecting New Yorkers with fresh produce and other goodies from local farms. We have a pick up location right here at ICC! When Wen-Jay isn’t trekking up to farms, maintaining the super fun social profiles or producing her radio show, Food Stripped Naked she sometimes does her admin work right out of the ICC library! If you want to bring a #soiltocity perspective into your own kitchen, check out her recommended reading list below, all available for circulation here in the library.
The Food Lab by J.Kenji Lopez-Alt
Last year’s James Beard Award Winner, this book covers just about anything and everything in the culinary world. With essential techniques, ingredient advice and tasty, very well tested recipes it could easily be your only cookbook. It also makes an excellent starter for new homecooks but still has the science and test kitchen detail to intrigue seasoned chefs. Wen-Jay particularly loves that he explains both how and why various food preparations work.
The Food Substitutions Bible by David Joachim
This guide contains simple substitutions for any ingredient, equiptment or technique you may be missing from Atemoya to a zester. This book is important to Wen-Jay because sometimes trying to cook with only local ingredients can make recipes feel confining, but learning the substitutions can give you more flexibility in the kitchen and empower you to be a versatile chef with your Local Roots NYC produce. “Cooking does not need high-end appliances or an infinite supply of spices or specific vegetable varieties. Let your taste buds and this book guide you to be more flexible in the kitchen, “ said Wen-Jay.
The Frugal Colonial Housewife by Susannah Carter
This book is also one of my favorites and a fun glimpse into the past through food. It was the first truly American cookbook published in the colonies, back when everyone was trying to recreate British style cooking. Carter introduced local ingredients which new arrivals from England weren’t familiar with such as pumpkin and corn. Something unique you will notice is that the style of writing recipes was very different. They offer vague ingredient description (something green, a piece of meat) as it was difficult to produce specific items. The instruction is also much less detailed than we expect today, most women learned everything from their families and never needed written instruction on technique. Says Wen-Jay, “Love that Sara introduced me to this cookbook when interviewing her on my radio show! People used to cook with stripped down recipes because everyone had basic culinary skills and “farm to table” was the only way to cook.”
The Kitchen Ecosystem by Eugenia Bone
“LOCAL ROOTS NYC LOVES SUSTAINABLE COOKING! We recently hosted a cooking club because 85% of food waste happens on the consumer end between home chefs, restaurants, etc.” said Wen-Jay. If you find yourself in that very predicament, pick up the Kitchen Ecosystem. Bone explains sustainable meal planning and various ways to use every ingredient. For each item listed, she details how to prepare it fresh, how to preserve it and how to use scraps then lists several recipes for each incarnation. Organized by ingredient, The Kitchen Ecosystem covers produce, fish and meat with enough variations to suit every palate.
Setting the Table by Danny Meyer
For a guide on successfully providing excellent hospitality and to understand the success of Meyers ventures, check out Setting the Table. He lays out his philosophy of “enlightened hospitality” or connecting deeply with customers through small details, creating a nurturing work culture and building community. Says Wen-Jay, “At Local Roots NYC, we believe that constantly reimagining our food system is necessary for its longevity. We’ve reimagined the traditional CSA model and continue to mature and mo It brings us joy to show appreciation to our customers and have built meaningful relationships with our customers and producers with some practices mentioned in this book.”
The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry
Wen-Jay considers this seminal text her bible and tries to read some every morning. This book was the inspiration for much of the Local Roots value system. Barry considers good farming to be a cultural development and a spiritual discipline. Says Wen-Jay, “He emphasizes the importance of regional systems, making decisions not based on short term needs but long term commitments, and makes parallels between the health of farms with the vitality in life.”
How did you like our guest contributor? Who else would you like to see a reading list from, contact Sara the Librarian with your suggestions firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the library on Instagram for more @IntlCulLibrary