About two years ago the Free Library of Philadelphia created a Culinary Literacy Center, a commercial-grade kitchen that serves as a classroom and dining space for the people of Philadelphia. In addition to the space being used by a catering company, the center offers classes and workshops for library users and last night The Librarian, Buffy and I joined a score of people to take a class to learn ways to spice up, pun intended, our kitchens.
The program was hosted by Cooking Alchemy, an eco-conscious food, services, and products operation specializing in plant based healing foods and healing products. Chef Elizabette Andrade led a class to introduce us to staples for our pantry which will promote well being and assist in meal planning among other benefits.
We started out with a game. We were tasked to try and identify and then place small jars filled with samples of the 15 different areas of the Periodic Table of Pantry Elements. After we made our guesses and matches, Chef Elizabitte then discussed elements from the table, offering ideas for pairings, health and taste tips and allowing us to sample some (smoked salt is a delight!). There was time for questions and sharing pairing ideas.
We created a shopping list based on some of the items Chef Elizabitte suggested using a checklist she provided us. While the list did not include every element, the essentials, dry goods (grains, beans, nuts and seeds), liquids (oils, vinegars), herbs, spices, salt, thickening & rising agents, sweetness, and condiments were shared to get us started.
I wondered about HOW to start and she suggested that we choose 2-3 foot from each category. Although she excluded spices I would include them as their flavors lose potency with age. We then created a sample to take home, ingredients for Cape Verdean Jagacida, beans and rice.
The family and I made one of samples tonight and it was a quick filling meal. The recipe that Chef Elizabitte provided created a delicious scent which perfumed the house and made my mouth water. I will caution that you may need to let your beans soak before cooking. The suggested meal prep of 20-25 minute cook time for the beans left us with hard, mostly uncooked beans. We also added 14 ounces of diced tomatoes instead of the 1/2 cup the recipe called for.
The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center was an inexpensive way to create a delicious meal to share with my family, a wonderful way to get acquainted with a resource from the library and fun night out with Buffy and The Librarian. I loved chatting with Chef Elizabitte and the Culinary librarian on duty and am inspired, not intimidated, by the room with the stove.
I look forward to more classes with the Culinary Literacy Center. It’s easy way to get out an learn, getting other folks and yes, I would be lying if I said that I was thinking about doing a similar thing with my own Library. If you’re interested in learning about Cooking Alchemy, check out Chef Elizabitte’s Cooking Alchemy Site. If you want to sign up for a class or just learn more about the Culinary Literacy Center, check out their online space.
The Librarian and I have created a shopping list and are ready to explore the delicious flavors. We’ll save you a plate!