by Maeve Clark on June 23rd, 2015
I love Wednesdays in the summer because I know that when I get off work I can walk a little more than one block to the Farmers Market and find the garden of earthly eating delights. I will not have to make dinner, not that I make dinner much anyway, (though I must confess that I love to read cookbooks and I do very much enjoy when others use cookbooks and share their delicious dishes with me, I just cannot get enthused about cooking). Early in the market season I rely on the vendors who make food ready for me to consume on the spot. Nothing requires a plate and can I pair my handheld tasty meal with a beverage made fresh at the market too. There is always music playing, with chairs set up or a table if one might have purchased several items for dinner.
As the season progresses more and more vegetable are available. And with vegetables like tomatoes and cumbers and basil I can make a pretty mean sandwich. In fact, I think I excel at sandwich making. But not everyone does, and if you are looking for help in the sandwich making area, the library is here for you. In fact we have 25 books on how to make sandwiches. In The big summer cookbook : 300 fresh, flavorful recipes for those lazy, hazy days by Jeff Cox devotes a chapter to farmers market picks. I would be willing, however, to offer a free tutorial. And once you have your sandwich, (chock full of veggies so you don’t need a salad) and a beverage and maybe a dessert or two – you are ready to do one of my other favorite summer activities – picnic. And guess what? Yep, the library has books on how to picnic too.
by Maeve Clark on June 10th, 2015
It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s time for an iced tea. According to an NPR story on the history of iced tea, the Tea Association of the U.S.A states that 85 percent of all tea consumed in the United States today is sipped cold. Iced tea’s history is a fascinating one. It was often the base of a punch, a punch with a punch, so to speak. Recipes for tea punch date back to Colonial times, although the icing of tea was a thing in the Northern United States it wasn’t possible in the South until the turn of the 19th century when New Englanders began shipping ice.
The Iowa City Cook Book, 1898 published by the Ladies of the Christian Church, has a recipe for tea punch, (without the alcoholic punch, they were church ladies, after all). It’s looks delicious and one could, if one so wanted, add a little extra kick. The Iowa City Public Library also has a number of books on tea; how to make it, how to grow it and how to have a party with tea.
by Maeve Clark on May 12th, 2015
Not only do wild flowers emerge in the spring, but wild animal young do, too. We’ve had questions about what to do when someone has found a nest of baby bunnies or a young robin on the ground or even a fawn without a doe nearby. Our natural inclination to think the young animal has been abandoned, but that may not be the case at all. Books on animal rescue and rehabilitation as well as websites devoted to wildlife suggest that the first step you take is determining whether the young animal is orphaned, injured or just fine.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) posted the article Leave Wildlife Babies in the Wild . “If you find an animal baby that appears to be on its own, don’t worry. Generally, one of its parents is nearby, watching. They’re teaching their offspring to be independent, and in the case of danger, some animal parents will take off in order to create a distraction away from their young,” suggests the DNR.
The Humane Society of the United States cautions that “unless the animal appears injured or in distress, there may be no need to rescue them.” They do suggest you follow up if -a cat or dog presents the wild animal to you; there is evidence of bleeding; there is an apparent or obvious broken limb; there is a featherless or nearly featherless bird on the ground or the baby animal is shivering or there is a dead parent nearby.
The next step, according to the DNR is to contact a certified wildlife rehabilitator. The DNR maintains a list on its website. If you cannot reach a rehabilitator, you should contact your conservation officer or animal control officer. If you would like to learn more about what an wildlife rehabilitator does, Talk of Iowa, an Iowa Public Radio program, recently hosted several rehabilitators and they shared their stories of helping return the young back into the wild.
by Maeve Clark on April 23rd, 2015
Did you know that rhubarb is also known as pie plant? I hadn’t heard, (or at least I didn’t remember hearing), rhubarb called pie plant, (or pieplant), until I lived in Dubuque. However, a little online digging shows that term pie plant has been in written use since 1838. If you are a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, you might recall that it from a passage in The First Four Years -Laura was cooking for the threshers, the first dinner in her very own little house, and was running through the menu: “There was pie plant in the garden; she must make a couple of pies.”
A discussion of the term came up last month when I attended a meeting Historic Foodies, a local group with an interest in using recipes from the cookbooks of yesteryear. We were using The Iowa City Cook Book, and on page 181 one of our members found the recipe below. The cookbook dates from 1898 and is chock-full of recipes that will invite much discussion. You might just recognize the names of prominent Iowa City residents of the past. In fact, while we at the meeting we consulted Margaret Keyes book Nineteenth century home architecture of Iowa City to see if we could locate the recipe writer’s house. When we did we pulled up the Iowa City assessors website to find out if the house was extant. It was tremendous fun and we found a good number of the names in Dr. Keyes’ book and many of the houses are still here!
So what does all of this have to do with Irving B. Weber? First, Weber wrote the introduction to Dr. Keyes book. Second, while Weber’s mother doesn’t have any recipes in the cookbook, some of his parent’s neighbors do. Third, we are just about to celebrate Irving B Weber Days, a full month of programming and displays dedicated to local history. Fourth, the Historic Foodies will be providing refreshments from the Iowa City Cook Book for a program during Weber Days. Make sure you mark your calendar to come to Rachel Wobeter’s talking to tour of Iowa City food history. Rachel will share her research on what Iowa City folk ate between 1830 and 1900 on Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. The program will air live on Library Channel 2o.
And finally, what does pie plant have to do with with Irving Weber? Well, here’s what I think, I bet you anything Irving ate pie plant in either a pie or as a sauce or maybe even like I did as a child, by dipping the stalk in the sugar bowl and taking a great big bite of sour delight.
by Maeve Clark on April 23rd, 2015
It’s Money Smart Week and the Iowa City Public Library has a deal for you. Money Smart Week is a program of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and one of the activities is Dash for the Stash. DASH for the STASH, is an investor education and protection contest. One participant in Iowa will win $1,000 to open or add to an Individual Retirement Account.
The DASH for the STASH contest works much like a scavenger hunt. But instead of collecting objects, players gather information and leave answers to quiz questions on four posters. Each poster focuses on one investor education and protection topic, and each poster topic features an associated quiz question to answer. To play, participants read the content on each poster, scan the unique QR code to access that topic’s quiz question (multiple choice), and submit their answer via smartphone, tablet, or computer. Participants must have the QR app (free download) on a mobile device in order to scan QR codes and access the quiz. The posters are located on the first floor Gallery. The contest runs through Sunday, April 26 at the Iowa City Public Library.
The contest is being sponsored by the nonprofit Investor Protection Institute (IPI) and, in Iowa, the Iowa Insurance Division’s Securities Bureau.
by Maeve Clark on March 18th, 2015
Last week as I was walking by the New Fiction books a colleague handed me, HORRORSTÖR by Grady Hendrix. How fortuitous. I was heading off to Chicago-land that weekend and would be making my inaugural visit to IKEA, and this title was the perfect primer, (in a twisted sort of way, that is).
Grady Hendrix’s book is a fast, very funny read. HORRORSTÖR, takes place at ORSK: THE BETTER HOME FOR THE EVERYONE, an IKEA wannabe. The book is cleverly designed with each chapter, at least initially, showcasing a named piece of furniture. The first, the BROOKA, is a very Scandinavian-like sofa, with clean lines and a description that screams IKEA. “A sofa that’s everything you ever dreamed a sofa could be. With memory-foam cushions and a high back that delivers the support your neck deserves, BROOKA is relaxing beginning to the end of your day.”.
Something has gone amiss at ORSK, greatly amiss. Every morning staff arrives to find furniture broken, glassware shattered and worse. Three employees agree to work an overnight shift to try to discover what is happening during the nighttime hours. As the night progresses, the pieces of furniture prefacing each chapter change. We move from the sofa to bookshelves, to a dining room table to instruments of torture. As the story unfolds we learn that this suburban Ohio ORSK store was built on the site of a prison, a prison of unspeakable horror. While not the scariest of stories, HORROSTÖR, more than makes up for that weakness in the sleek design and packaging of the book. Both fans and those who are not so keen on the IKEA experience will find HORRORSTÖR very entertaining.
by Maeve Clark on March 17th, 2015
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! In searching out where the Irish and their descendents live in the United States I came across a good number of maps. The first I found was from an article in Forbes listing the cities in the United States with highest density of Irish. Boston was the highest with 20.4%. More fun facts about the Irish diaspora is that Irish-Americans are at least 5% of the population in most counties across the U.S., and 10% or more in most of New England, New York state, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and other smaller counties across the country. At the other extreme, Miami is just 1% Irish. What I really wanted was a map that would allow a user to click on a county and see what percentage of the population is of Irish ancestry. I got close with a map posted today by the US Census that showed Irish in the United States using figures from 2009 to 2013. The Census map is pretty but it didn’t allow me to drill down as far as I wanted.
I found an interactive map, Measuring the U.S. Melting Pot, that offered me a means of comparing the ethnicity of various populations in the United States. You can compare the number of Swedes to Norwegians in Minnesota, the number of Irish to Italians in New York City, the Irish to the Germans in Iowa. Another map of interest is, Mapping the Emerald Isle: a geo-genealogy of Irish surnames, where you can search a a surname and find where folk of that name lived in which Irish counties, both the Republic and the North, according to the 1890 census. I also found a cartogram, posted by Jerry Soloman from the University of Georgia, of the percent ofIrish ancestry by county. It still wasn’t interactive, but it was a fascinating map. Cartograms distort the area of geographic features to reflect the values of an underlying variable, in the map to the right, it shows the percentage of those claiming Irish descent. The cartogram at the bottom shows shows those claiming Irish ancestry with an emphasis large urban areas. (I particularly like it because it kind of resembles a whale.) And whether you can claim any Irish blood, most all of us live in a county were someone can. Sláinte!
by Maeve Clark on January 20th, 2015
Are there truths behind the folklore, proverbs and phrases that many of us hear growing up? You know what I mean, like the woolly or fuzzy bear caterpillar, and if its black stripes predict it will be a colder winter than most. As for the woolly bear, it is not the best prognosticator of the severity of the winter. The woolly bear’s coloring, at least according to a post on the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office’s website, depends upon a number of variables. “The woolly bear caterpillar’s coloring is based on how long caterpillar has been feeding, its age, and species. The better the growing season is the bigger it will grow. This results in narrower red-orange bands in its middle. Thus, the width of the banding is an indicator of the current or past season’s growth rather than an indicator of the severity of the upcoming winter. Also, the coloring indicates the age of the woolly bear caterpillar.”
Many of the adages have to do with predicting the weather or some type of weather-based observation. An expression I heard for the first time over the holidays was a green Christmas makes a fat churchyard. I poked around on the Internet to find out just what it meant and to see if I could trace it back in time. The most common reading of the phrase is that cold weather brings about fewer deaths. The reasoning behind this was that cold weather killed off the germs or stalled disease that was more rampant in warm weather. Or perhaps it was in warmer weather more folk circulated and came into contact with each other, thus spreading disease. Either way, the cold, they thought, kept germs at bay and people at home. Well, it turns out that cold weather or warm weather didn’t really have that much to do with the death rate at the holidays. In fact as far back as 1913 The New York Times ran a piece disputing these nugget of weather lore based on a report from medical officers in London where a warm winter had not made for more deaths but fewer. The farthest back I could trace the adage was as an Irish seanfhocal, Nollag, ghlas, reilig mheith.
The library has a number of books of phrases and sayings and even a title devoted just to weather folklore, Weather wisdom : being an illustrated practical volume wherein is contained unique compilation and analysis of the facts and folklore of natural weather prediction by Albert Lee. Are there old wives’ tales or adages that you use, weather-based or not? And if there are, do any of them hold true? Please feel free to share them.
by Maeve Clark on January 5th, 2015
Well, it finally happened – winter has arrived and with it snow and bone-chilling cold. We are asked about where to find out about road conditions and the best source for state and interstate highways is the Iowa Department of Transportation, (Iowa DOT). The Iowa DOT has a number of resources to make your trip as safe as possible. If you link to the Winter Weather Driving Help page you can find out how to connect to the 511 road conditions site. The Iowa 511 site gives updates on current road conditions including a Track a Plow feature. Track a Plow shows the deployment and locations of snowplows and what type of snow or ice retardant, liquid or solid, the plow is using, as well as the road conditions including any closures.
There is also an Iowa 511 On the Go option that lets users download a smartphone app for either the iPhone or Android devices. The Iowa 511 app provides statewide real-time traffic information for interstates, U.S. routes and state highways in Iowa. It does not include information for county roads or city streets. Other available information includes:
• A zoom-enabled map with traffic event icons that can be selected.
• Real-time updates on winter road conditions, traffic incidents, road work, construction, and road closures.
• Current traffic speeds and closed-circuit television (CCTV) traffic camera images in select cities (Ames, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Iowa City, Quad Cities, Sioux City, and Waterloo) and across the state.
• Electronic roadway sign messages.
• Highway rest area locations.
If you don’t have Internet access or a smartphone, you can still find out road condition information from the Iowa DOT by calling 511 or 800-288-1047.
by Maeve Clark on December 29th, 2014
Best Food Writing 2014, edited by Holly Hughes, is a delightful collection from food writers of all stripes; from chef-writers and food bloggers to food magazine and cookbook writers. Now in its 15th year, Best Food Writing continues to provide a tasty sample of the best in food writing found in print and online. Divided into eight sections readers can sample from 50 pieces beginning with The Way We Eat Now and ending with Extreme Eating.
One of my favorite pieces is The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, where he writes the weekly Food Lab column. Lopez-Alt’s selection comes from the Home Cooking section and lists 20 Cookie Facts which explain the science behind the recipe and why modifying ingredients and instructions can change the results. He ends with his recipe for The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. I think it is definitely worth a try.
If you enjoy cooking and/or eating or reading about cooking or food, Best Food Writing 2014, (or earlier years in the series), might just be the perfect book for you.