Notes from the Farmers’ Market Chef


I have the enviable thrill of seeing all sorts of new books as they come to the Howard County Library System! I always try to snag the newest cookbooks and vegetable growing titles to tell you about in Notes from the Farmers’ Market Chef.

Today, I am excited about 50 Best Plants on the Planet: the Most Nutrient-dense Fruits and Vegetables, in 150 Delicious Recipes by Cathy Thomas (2013). This boldly photographed book (in all the colors of the vegetable rainbow) is brought to you by Melissa’s World Variety Produce, the largest supplier of specialty produce in the United States. Now, Melissa’s isn’t exactly a proponent of locavore eating—their niche is to supply the exotics from around the world. In 50 Best Plants… you will find a wide variety of foods, from the dandelion greens in your back yard (if you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em!) to kumquats & papayas.

Cathy Thomas, food columnist at The Orange County Register, has organized the book alphabetically, arugula to watermelon. Each vegetable or fruit is introduced with general notes, a nutritional chart, and notes on health benefits, availability and some preparation suggestions. This is followed with three recipes for creative uses of each vegetable, again with full nutritional charts. I think the real value of Thomas’ book is the encouragement to enjoy these nutrient-dense foods. We eat so few vegetables as a nation, the more nutrition we get from each serving, the healthier we can be.

Do you like a little history with your recipes—well, a lot of history? Try William Sitwell’s A History of Food in 100 Recipes (2013). Sitwell’s back-story reminds me of a novel The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman (2010). A subplot in Goodman’s book involves an antiquarian bookstore owner’s acquisition of an intriguing collection of cookbooks. Sitwell went to an auction at Sotheby’s in 2010 and “came away with an armful of nineteenth-century cookery books.” He discovered gold in the “tired bindings and browned paper.” He found “characterful writing” leaping from the page. However, it would take the skills of this award-winning writer-editor to produce this engaging book.

Some of the recipes are short descriptions of technique at the head of a chapter followed by discursions on the author, the technique or the time period. This book is not for the kitchen, but for the easy chair.

How about a little kitchen anthropology? Consider the Fork: a History of How We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson (2012) makes no pretense at being a cookbook; it is a “wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world.” Did you know that the fork “endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance”? And egg timers—why are there egg timers but not carrot timers? Have you considered the history of ice in food preservation? And canning? Wilson will have you considering things you never before considered—like the fork.

As you consider your kitchen, be it small or large, urban, suburban, or rural; consider putting this event date on your calendar:

The Urban Pantry: Preserving 101
October 5 from 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Saturday)
Glenwood Branch
Presented by The Farmer’s Market Chef

See you then!



Barbara Cornell joined the Howard County Library System in 1993 as Assistant Branch Manager at the new Elkridge Branch. Since 2000 she has enjoyed a shorter commute to the Glenwood Branch.