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Food for Thought


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

Train Travel Menus

When it comes to romantic ways to travel across the United States, the train gets short shrift. Cars, even Greyhound buses, are the usual setting for burgeoning love affairs, quiet introspection, and hunger for new beginnings. This September, however, train travel gets its due when video artist Doug Aitken celebrates the modest Amtrak with his latest project, Station to Station. Aitken will take an Amtrak train and transform it into a moving kinetic light sculpture (this is not your mother's Northeast Corridor), with stops in major cities along 

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From Sanitary Fairs to "The Settlement": Early Charity Cookbooks

One hundred and fifty years ago, as the Civil War raged, the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) was busy raising money to improve conditions for Union soldiers. Early on in the war, people realized that, in addition to the terrible loss of life during the battles, an appalling number of casualties occurred because of poor sanitation and inadequate medical care. One very successful method of fundraising by the USSC was "Sanitary Fairs"—exhibitions and festivals held throughout the Northern states. Merchandise for sale at the fairs might include clothing, toys, tobacco, 

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Playing With Matches: Jewish Deli Ephemera

Hot pastrami. Three decker sandwiches with chopped liver, corned beef, tomatoes and bermuda onion. Hungarian beef goulash with noodles. Stuffed derma with kasha. These artery-clogging delicacies are no longer available at the Stage Delicatessen, which closed late last year after 75 years as a New York City landmark. The Stage was one of the relatively few remaining "Jewish-style" (but decidedly unkosher) delicatessens in New York.

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Celebrate National Doughnut Day

The first Friday in June is National Doughnut Day.

Usually I am skeptical of nonsensical food holidays. Did the cinnamon-sugar lobby come up with this? The lard council?

Still, National Doughnut Day grabbed my attention. So I checked Chase's Calendar and the sources cited in the Wikipedia article.

It's time to CELEBRATE!

The first Doughnut Day was in 1938, organized by the Salvation Army in Chicago to 

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New York City Restaurant Cookbooks

There are lots of reasons to want to recreate favorite restaurant recipes at home. A happy memory of a meal, maybe at a place that no longer exists; the pure challenge of replicating that mystery sauce or seasoning; the desire to be thrifty, cooking in more and eating out less; improving cooking skills through imitation... having already had a taste of perfection. Some restaurant meals are just inspirational to the home cook.


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Catching the 7 Line: The International Express to NYPL!

7 Train by Scott Beale on FlickrApril is Immigrant Heritage Month. In New York City, April 17th to 24th is Immigrant Heritage Week. In honor of both celebrations of Immigrant Heritage, this blog will focus on the multiculturalism of the 7 train.

If you live in Queens, New York, and you work in midtown like me, there might be a possibility that you often take the MTA train to work, particularly the

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TeenLIVE at the NYPL in Retrospect: Johnny Iuzzini on September 20, 2012

A Food Network Star! I am a big fan of the Food Network, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that TeenLIVE at the NYPL was hosting Johnny Iuzzini, head judge of Top Chef: Just Desserts, "Pastry Chef of the Year" in 2006, and author of

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How the Sausage Gets Made: Books About the Food Industry

E. coli in spinach. Salmonella in peanut butter. Pink slime. Horse meat! It seems like every year there is a new food safety scandal, and efforts made to reform the enormous industry that delivers calories (

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Anti-Valentine? Join the Club!

If you are like me, then the one thing you would like about Valentine's Day is the day after: chocolates on sale!

Godiva, Ferrara, chocolate truffles, M&Ms, you name it — all those brand name sweets at 50% off or on a buy-one-get-one-free basis totally makes up for this senseless tradition.

Though the only people actually winning from this scheme are your dentists and candy makers, who's really counting your cavities when the most-ridiculous "holiday" of the year just ended?! (In my humble opinion...)

Don't get me wrong, I am not 

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Meet the Author: Carliss Pond

Carliss Pond, author of Taste of Broadway and Sizzle in Hell's Kitchen spoke at the Columbus Library last year. It was great to have an author speak about the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, which has come to be known as Clinton in recent years. Sizzle in Hell's Kitchen chronicles the diverse restaurants available on Ninth Avenue, including 38 different restaurants representing 27 different 

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Julia Child: Her Magnificent Obsession

Is NYPL obsessed with food? Maybe, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The popular Lunch Hour NYC exhibition at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building opened June 2012 and runs through February 17. It celebrates over a century of New York lunches. Don't miss the online exhibit and the menu collection. In conjunction with the exhibit, NYPL has hosted multiple

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The Art and Science of Cooking

I like to cook, but I am not much of a baker. There is one yearly exception... the transition to autumn and then the holiday season usually puts me in a baking mood. For the past few Christmases I've made biscotti — Italian cookies flavored with nuts, spices, or dried fruits. They are something of a tradition in my family. This year when I got out my mixing bowl I grabbed a dry measure for the flour and sugar, but then I put it away. I decided not to use it.

Now, I know baking is all about scientific precision! 

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Programs for Foodies and Friends: The Recipe Project, Soul Food Junkies, Dirt Candy and More

Musical recipes... a soul food journey... a history of peanut butter... food bloggers... urban farmers and foragers...Dirt Candy... Julia Child... America's banana king... the hidden financial and political aspects of food... the astrological signs of the delicatessen... foodways of the African diaspora... cooking on TV. The Lunch Hour NYC exhibition currently at the Schwarzman Building has inspired us to offer some truly varied food related programs at the 

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Cooking for the Holidays, or, Bourbon Makes It Better

Although the rapidly approaching holidays usually only induces feelings of anxiety, I do look forward to getting out the cookware and making my tried and true holiday desserts and side dishes such as English trifle, Danish rice pudding (risengrød a la mande) and sweet potatoes baked in a sauce of maple syrup, butter and BOURBON!

You heard me, a little bourbon makes something I used to dislike when I was younger into the talk of any Thanksgiving get-together. Basically, after gently boiling 3 lbs. of scrubbed sweet potatoes in their skins for about 15-20 

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Food Special Libraries and Museums

I am a vegan, natural health food nut, and now I am on a gluten-free diet, so I was interested to see what food libraries are out there. I used to be a big fan of the Food Network Channel; I loved watching the Food Network Challenge show, which I believe has been discontinued. I cook natural grains and I made my own bread and apple pies as a teenager. I love vegetables, fruit, and health food stores. Below is a selection of the food libraries and museums that I found.

Special Libraries

from the

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Chinese American Food: Stories of Odds and Ends

Did you know that some of your favorite dishes from a Chinese take out restaurant have interesting stories behind them? The origin of their names, the ingredients used and how they were conceived and transformed in America all make fascinating tales in food history.

Since the 19th century, Chinese immigrants opened restaurants throughout the American frontier. These dishes preserved and reflected the different Chinese cultural and regional identities. Initially they were not accepted or liked by Americans because they were perceived as foreign. However, many dishes 

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Thanksgiving Recipes

A confession: I've never cooked a turkey. Sides, yes. Desserts, of course. But a turkey? Nope. I leave that to the experts. For me, turkey is the least exciting part of Thanksgiving. Sure, it may be the perfect vehicle for cranberry sauce. And turkey leftovers do make for a tasty soup, but if I had my druthers, I'd just as soon stick to chicken.

All this turkey bashing is just my way of explaining why you won't find any turkey basting in my Thanksgiving picks below. Everyone has their own method of preparing the bird, and I certainly wouldn't want anyone taking advice from a 

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"Compact and Ingenious": Lunchboxes, Dinner Pails, and Other Ways We've Carried Lunch

This post was written by former Lunch Hour NYC intern Caitlin Dover. Caitlin is a writer and editor based in New York City; she recently received her master's in material culture from the Bard Graduate Center in New York.

How do you pack your lunch? Chances are, you and your kids rely on an assortment of reusable plastic containers that you tote daily to work or school. That practice of packing one's midday meal goes back at least as far as the first half of the nineteenth century, when industrialization prompted workers to find ways to eat their "dinner" in or near 

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Read It, Make It, Write It! Eat More of What You Love

I had the honor of meeting Marlene Koch, author of the cookbook: Eat More of What You Love, at the Book Expo America event held this June at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Marlene was all smiles as I told her how much I appreciate the publishing of this cookbook because not only does it reduce the length of time in the kitchen but substitutes the unnecessary calories from our daily diet. As she autographed my personal copy, I promised her 

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Boost your Budget with Help from a Food Program!

The following post was written by guest blogger Vanna Valdez, Benefits Outreach Worker, NYC Hunger Free Communities Consortium.

The New York City Hunger Free Communities Consortium (NYCHFCC) is a collaboration of New York City’s leading anti-hunger, nutrition, and aging organizations (AARP Foundation, City Harvest, Council of Senior Centers and Services of NYC, Food Bank 

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