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Food for Thought


Uncovering the edible NYPL in books, menus, and ephemera.

A Helping Hand from Food Stamps

The United States Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known more commonly as the Food Stamp Program, provides support to low-income New Yorkers including working families, qualified immigrants, the elderly and the disabled to increase their ability to purchase food. A household must qualify under eligibility rules set by the federal government to enroll in this program.  To determine your eligiblity for this or other goverment assistance programs, click

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Before the Big Mac: Horn & Hardart Automats

115 East 14th Street. March 1933. credit: Robert Byrnes Collection of Automat MemorabiliaAsk anyone about the "Big Mac" and immediately one imagines an image of a double hamburger on a sesame seed bun. The golden arches are everywhere.  On Broadway and 42nd Street, New York City boasts one of the largest McDonald's in metropolitan America. 

Say the words "Horn & Hardart," you will probably get a different reaction.  Go back thirty years or more...

Horn & Hardart Automats were a common sight around the city.  

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November Reader's Den: "Kitchen Confidential" Discussion Wrap-Up

Welcome to the wrap-up of our discussion of Kitchen Confidential. We hope that we have inspired you to be adventurous in the kitchen this Thanksgiving holiday [if you happen to be reading this blog from a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving now, then we hope that it has inspired you to be adventurous in the kitchen in general], or at least inspired you to find some tasty reading.

Since Kitchen Confidential is a memoir, many of the scenes in it help us to understand why Anthony Bourdain is so 

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Finishing Up: "Kitchen Confidential"

The third course chapter of Kitchen Confidential recounts Tony's series of jobs after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America.  From the fading glory with a view of the Rainbow Room to the Apocalypse Now atmosphere of Works Progress, then later to the slow failures of Tom's and Rick's Cafe, etc. Along with an increasingly fat paycheck, his stories of the various kitchens he worked in 

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Discount sushi and other really bad ideas

Welcome back to the Reader’s Den.  This month we are reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen ConfidentialJenny’s post from last week gave us some background on Bourdain.  We are progressing in the book onto the second course now, which outlines “what strange beasts lurk behind the kitchen doors” as well as several 

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November Reader’s Den: About the Author of "Kitchen Confidential"

Welcome back to this month’s Reader’s Den, co-led by Jenny Baum and Ursula Murphy, about Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.

Anthony Bourdain is a polarizing figure and, as such, elicits strong responses, as strong as a few politicians I can think of. Cable channels like the Food channel, the newer Cooking channel and the Travel 

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November Reader's Den: "Kitchen Confidential"

Welcome to this month’s Reader’s Den!  This month we’ll have a discussion co-led by Jenny Baum and Ursula Murphy about Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Please feel free to comment or bring up anything relevant to the book in the comment section.  We'll try to address and facilitate discussion as it comes up. 

“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating is 

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The Manga Cookbook Part 1, or, How To Boil an Egg

Every morsel in The Manga Cookbook is so freaking cute and delicious looking I couldn’t decide what to cook. This kind of copious edible cuteness must be how the Bento box came to be. The bento is a combo of small treats stuffed together attractively in a box or tray. In fact, stuffing the tray is compulsory, as the bento is meant to be portable. If there’s even a little space in the box, contents will shift and the omotenashi (eating with the eyes) will be ruined. In any event, I was compelled to make a variety of 

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Ready with Opekta in 10 Minutes: A Culinary Footnote to the Holocaust

Why does the Dorot Jewish Division have in its cookbook collection a booklet of pectin recipes? After all, pectin—a gelling agent used in making jams, pie fillings, and jellybeans, among other things—may be very useful in confectionery, but it's hardly a staple ingredient in Jewish cookery. Yet one particular manufacturer of pectin played a fateful role in the life of a certain Jewish family during World War II.

"Opekta," a name 

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Snappy Eats of 1932: Jewish Community Cookbooks

Here in the Dorot Jewish Division, we have over 400 cookbooks that were published outside the United States: from Canada and Mexico, South America, Asia (including Israel, of course), Oceania, and Africa (including a cookbook from Melilla, the city on the north coast of Morocco that's actually part of Spain).

Some of the more unusual locales represented are the Bahamas (The Bah-Haimisha 

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Summer Cooking

Many people have a favorite summer food. My favorites are hot dogs and frozen Charleston Chew candy bars. For others, hamburgers, ice cream, and watermelon are as much a part of the summer months as fly swatters and bathing suits. But as an avid home cook in a cramped and often sweltering apartment kitchen, it can sometimes prove challenging to find satisfying dishes that don't cause frustration or perspiration. Read More ›

A Quick Guide to Culinary Research

While I've taught a number of classes about how one would begin culinary research at the New York Public Library, I understand that people can't always make it to midtown in the middle of the day, nor does everyone live in New York. For those reasons and more, I've put together a brief tutorial on how to begin culinary research at a library and I will attempt to make this as universally applicable to other libraries as possible. 

Cookery is the Word

Perhaps the most important trick when looking up cookbooks in a library catalog is to use the term 

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Famous Recipes for Jewish Housewives: Advertising Booklets in the Jewish Division

Manischewitz, Hebrew National, Wolff's Kasha, Empire Kosher Poultry--it's no surprise that these companies have produced Jewish cookbooks over the years. But advertising booklets have been around since the nineteenth century, and lots of (non-Jewish) companies have tried to attract Jewish customers with recipe booklets, a wide array of which can be 

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Mogen Dovid Delicatessen Journals

Working in a research library has its advantages. I've met lots of interesting people, encountered fascinating objects serendipitously, and wandered around the deep crevices of a landmark building.

But an unusual condition can occur when you've worked in a library for a long time. You run the risk of becoming jaded. First Folio of Shakespeare? Been there, done that. Gutenberg Bible? Please. I walk by it every day. But when you do stumble upon something new --  something exciting and revelatory and unexpected -- you have a tendency to appreciate it 

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Julia et Jim

With so many menus in the New York Public Library collection, it's not uncommon for me to stumble upon a gem I've never seen before. The menu featured here is one such example. Had a patron not requested this 1975 dinner menu honoring James Beard and Julia Child a few months ago, it would still be sitting in its box downstairs. But thankfully the request was made, and I was introduced to this charming item. The dinner, which was sponsored by the Wine & Food Society of New York, was held on 

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Ruth Madoff's Cookbook

While Bernie Madoff spends the rest of his life in prison, his wife Ruth will have plenty of time to work on a second cookbook. Yes, a second cookbook. Ruth Madoff edited a cookbook in 1996 called The Great Chefs of America Cook Kosher, which has garnered its own bit of controversy. Ruth, along with her friend Idee Schoenheimer, is credited as an executive editor of this spiral-bound work, although according to an

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The Forme of Cury

 According to an article in The Guardian this week, the University of Manchester Library will begin a project to digitize The Forme of Cury, a rare 14th century cookbook compiled by King Richard II's royal chefs. The Forme of Cury is considered the oldest known cookery book written in English (cury is the Middle English word for cookery), and the digitization project, which will include other treasures such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, should be completed by 2009. While the New York Public Library does not have the 

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Restaurant Month at NYPL

Forget Restaurant Week, October is Restaurant Month at the New York Public Library with three public programs that explore the past and the future of restaurant culture. We start things off on October 10th with Spain's master molecular gastronomist Ferran Adria discussing A Day at elBulli - a new book that documents a day in the life at Adria's restaurant. From dawn until way past dusk, A Day at... gives readers a way to experience elBulli without having to make a reservation.

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Landmark Restaurants

At a recent discussion sponsored by the Historic Districts Council on New York’s historic restaurants and bars, Matthew Postal, architectural historian and co-author of

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Fromage Fort

My refrigerator door holds a lot of stuff: butter, condiments, pickled shallots. Taking up the most real estate, however, are cheese nibs: those pieces of cheese you don’t feel justified in throwing away, but you never seem to eat again. They look okay - no visible mold - but you can never fully remember how long they’ve been sitting there. Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano I keep for adding to soup (although I often forget about that too), but the softer cheeses, the French or Spanish cheeses, 

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