CLARKS SUMMIT — Among the 80,000 books, DVDs and CDs and other services available to 30,000 Abington Community Library patrons are literally shelves and shelves of cookbooks.
“People borrow cookbooks all the time,” said Leah Ducato Rudolph, library director, during Tasting by the Book, a culinary sampling journey held at the library Oct. 24.
“That’s why plants on the tables were wrapped around recycled cookbooks. The books on each table were chosen by the cooks from our Book Nook section. They (the books) were given to them (the cooks) as a thank you (by the library) for coming to the event.”
Rudolph and board president Jim McVety noted co-chairs Carol Rubel and Dalida O’Malley combined their ideas to create the culinary fundraiser for the library, with the assistance of more than 70 volunteers. Thirty cooks prepared samples for 110 ticketholders, who then had an opportunity to bid on a quantity of the exact same recipe to be provided at a later date. Proceeds will be used to expand the library’s outdoor space for programming, according to Rudolph.
“The idea was to have community cooks, not restaurants, make a specialty, something they’re known for, and to present a taste of it at the library,” Rudolph explained. “People are silent bidding on, for example, two quarts of soup or eight dozen cookies. They will receive a coupon that will be valid for about a year. The exchange (of the coupon and food) will be made at the library.”
Carol Rubel conceived the idea as a way to bring the rich and varied traditions of regional cooks into a venue that could share cultures and histories, while honoring diversity of heritage.
“Tasting by the Book represents the best kind of community effort: individuals united by a common interest coming together to support a valued resource. Each of the community cooks was free to create any dish he (or) she felt represented some aspect of their lives that they would like to share with others,” Rubel said. Hand-braided traditional challah, Greek baklava, Spanish flan, American holiday cookies and Colonial Apple Pan Dowdy are examples of the numerous temptations attendees were invited to taste.
The event also allowed people to visit the library, “a space that does so much more for our community than lend books…,” Rubel added. “TBTB (Tasting by the Book) showed…that the best kinds of dialog happen around a table filled with food and friends.”
Mary Schelble is not vegan, but she said she believes in practicing good nutrition and is also searching for “good, healthy and highly-digestible recipes.” Carrots, chickpeas, spinach, and red lentils were among the ingredients she incorporated into the red lentil and butternut squash stew she prepared for the crowd. She simmered the ingredients using ghee with dashes of aromatic Indian spices, including turmeric and curry.
“The red lentil and butternut squash stew is always a hit and it’s a wonderful harvest meal and you can add all of your vegetables,” Schelble said.
Marie King describes herself as an experimental chef, who learned to cook for a crowd.
“I’m one of seven siblings,” King commented. “I typically make more than enough and then I share with my neighbors and stock my freezer.”
She prepared white chicken chili using homemade chicken stock she made from a whole roasted chicken, diced chicken, a combination of peppers and she substituted pureed beans in place of flour as a thickening agent. Chopped cilantro and Greek yogurt were also available on the side as garnishes.
Linda Ross said she opted to make pumpkin orange cookies because “pumpkins are plentiful now and it (the recipe) combines the pumpkin and the orange (flavors) together, so it’s different for most people.
“It (the recipe) was passed down to me by my mother and it’s a seasonal recipe,” she said. “I’ve made it every fall. We grow our own pumpkins. I love to bake desserts.”
In addition to Schelble, King and Ross, the evening’s lineup included Hamentashen made by Orna Clum, baklava made by Maria Pappa; pumpkins, sausage and sage pasta made by Carol Rubel; “Athenian Delights” made by Cookie Goldman; Chinese egg rolls made by Laura Martinetti; salsa made by Gail Scaramuzzo; challah bread made by Chany Rapoport; lemon bars made by Katharine Schkloven; gourmet tacos made by Samantha Pasternak; pasta e fagioli made by Jacqulyne Taylor; cocktail meatballs in cranberry marinara sauce made by Candice Shiffer; Symphony candy made by Cindy Gowell; Spanish flan made by Amy Acencio; chocolate chip biscotti made by Tara Mowbray; holiday cookies made by Susan Potenzano; shrimp mousse made by Dalida O’Malley; “Famous Bruschetta” made by Ann Marie Longo; ricotta cheese with honey and multi-grain crackers made by Stephanie Longo; pumpkin roll and olive dip made by Jeanie Sluck; cinnamon coffee cake and seasoned pretzels made by Cheryl Farrell; meatballs made by Pam Swift; “Colonial Apple Pan Dowdy” made by Christine Johnson; pizzelles made by Ken and Leah Ducato Rudolph; and “Autumnal Smokey Squash Soup” made by Ryan and Julia Rudolph Campbell.
When Rudolph finally had a few minutes to sit and observe the flurry of activity at the library, she said, “I think they (the co-chairs and volunteers) knocked it out of the ballpark.”
In an email following the event, she said, “Over $3,700 was netted when it was all said and done.”