Book n’ Cook

Initially begun in September of 2020 in collaboration with the Evansville African American Museum (EAAM), the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library (EVPL) Lincoln School, Legacy Taste of the Garden (LTotG) and Memorial Community Development Program, Urban Seeds is a proud partner and sponsor of the Book n’ Cook initiative.

The EAAM and EVPL invited Urban Seeds to facilitate the Cook portion of the Book n’ Cook program, as part of their 3-month outreach to encourage shared family reading time. The project incorporated a month of fiction reading, a month of picture books, and a month of non-fiction reading, all with a focus on the Black experience and rich history of farming and homesteading, including the deep connective roots to African culture. October’s book was geared to children and we chose Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis. Edna Lewis is a well known Black chef and food justice advocate, who encourages children to engage in gardening and cooking at age-appropriate levels, all the while weaving stories of her childhood with her sharecropper parents in the south. Urban Seeds donated a mixing bowl, a baking dish, and a hot mitt to each 3rd – 5th grade student participant, as well as all the ingredients. The story book had been read in a live-stream event the week prior, a copy of which was also included in the cooking kit and funded through the EAAM.Using locally grown apples from Engelbrecht’s Countryside Orchard, we made the apple crisp recipe from the book, live streaming the cooking class from the marvelous kitchen at Trinity United Methodist Church, a dear Urban Seeds partner. Denise and Paula of the Legacy Garden, whose family has been farming at Lyles Station since pre-Civil War, and which is the last remaining African American Settlement in Indiana, led the students in the cooking, all the while weaving in wonderful cultural and farming/gardening related information. The children were enchanted, and oh-so-proud when they shared photos of their apple crisp!

In honor of Black History Month EVPL, Legacy Taste of the Garden, Urban Seeds, and Trinity UMC partnered again to make another recipe from this marvelous book — a corn pudding. Once again, the book was funded, this time by EVPL, and Urban Seeds supplied the cooking kit and ingredients. Denise and Paula again facilitated the cooking portion, sharing rich tales of their childhood running and playing in the cornfields.

The first two B n’C events were greatly enjoyed by the students and their families, so much so that we solicited additional funding to create a 5-month seasonal series to highlight locally grown foods. We offered this series from June – October, adding measuring cups and spoons and a larger mixing bowl to the cooking kits, and three new books for each student, listed below. We featured local produce as we made seasonal dishes, using these recipes: Strawberry-Rhubarb cobbler in honor of Juneteenth, Baked Stir Fry, Tomato-Peach-Canteloupe salad, Pancit, and Butternut Squash soup. The teaching of the recipes and cooking techniques was shared between Urban Seeds and Legacy Taste of the Garden, while the EVPL staff provided expert camera and audio recording behind the scenes. The recorded cooking sessions can be seen here. We even added a Holiday Book n’ Cook class in November so the children could learn to make a side dish and a dessert for the coming holidays! Combining literacy with autonomy in the kitchen all the while connecting children to how food is grown–especially the importance of locally grown food–and prepared is a wonderful opportunity, and one for which we are proud to have been a partner.  Special thank you to our private donor, a retired teacher who dearly believes in the power of reading. xo

The books donated by EVPL and the EAAM were purchased through an Indiana Humanities Collaboration grant :

Cora Cooks Pancit, by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs, by America’s Test Kitchen

In the Garden with Dr. Carver, by Susan Grigsby

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie, by Robbin Gourley

Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food, by Shelley Rotner

Going Down Home with Dad, by Kelly Starling Lyons

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