Students Eat Well with the help of College Library’s Cookbook Collection

In April 2013, the College Library launched a community cookbook collection, an eclectic mix of books relating to food and cooking and curated by students. According to Danielle Salomon, the librarian in charge of the collection,

“It is an opportunity to test a new model of student involvement in library collections, while supporting students’ growing interest in food. Students ‘curate’ the collection by determining what the community needs and selecting the titles.”

She has been working with Joshua Lu and the student-run Bruin Culinary Community  to select and display the books. Students gain experience in collection development and develop an understanding of how university libraries function.

The collection includes books by Alice Waters, the grande dame of the seasonal food movement, including The Art of Simple Food and Chez Panisse Vegetables, and Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food, which provides advice on how to select quality food from your local grocery or farmers’ market. Two other key titles are Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, which has formulas for basic ingredients upon which the creative cook can experiment and embellish, and Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg’s The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity…, which features food and flavor combinations. Also included are books by renowned California chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc at Home and Bouchon Bakery, both of which have “doable” recipes as well as his more complex The French Laundry Cookbook. An international focus reflects the diverse student cultures at UCLA and includes titles such as Fischia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking, Shizuo and Yoshiki Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, Naomi Duguid’s Burma: Rivers of Flavor, Rachel Hogrogrian’s The Armenian Cookbook, Patricia Smouha’s Middle Eastern Cooking, and Cherie Twohy’s The I Love Trader Joe’s Around the World Cookbook. Several books on wine and beer are also included.

Amy Rowat, Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology and Physiology who teaches Physiological Science 7, Science and Food: Physical and Molecular Origins of What We Eat, says

“the collection is…important for the curriculum: students perform independent projects, and being able to consult books in a real live library is essential. In my class, we also learn to dissect recipes and explain the scientific role of each ingredient.”

Rowat’s course concluded with an apple pie bake-off . Each student project focused on an area of scientific inquiry and was tested by a panel of judges. Evan Kleinman, host of “Good Food” for radio station KCRW, wrote about the contest in her blog entry, Google vs Librarians: When it Comes to Recipes, Old Fashioned Research Trumps Technology  saying:

“If you want to learn how to make a recipe that has very few ingredients don’t turn to a search engine to find the best recipe to do it, ask a librarian to help you instead.”

And that is exactly what this collection is intended to do.

The cookbook collection is housed in the College Library, in the Powell Library Building’s East Rotunda, which formerly housed unbound journals. Books are listed in the UCLA Library Catalog with the location “College East Rotunda Cookbooks”. For more information, contact Danielle Salomon at daniellesalomon@library.ucla.edu.

The UCLA Library includes other materials in its collections that support an understanding of cooking and healthy eating. One example is The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, located in the College Library Reference Collection, is a comprehensive guide to fresh and whole foods, with guidance on selection, storage, and preparation of a wide range of foods, with suggestions for how to serve and combine with other foods. In fact, the UCLA Library has the second largest cookbook collection in California. The UCLA Library’s Department of Special Collections has actively acquired cookbooks produced in California as valuable historical and social documents. The collection includes the first Spanish-language cookbook published in California as well as modern cookbooks relating to the organic and whole foods movement (try searching the Library Catalog for ‘cooking – California’ as subject. Also of interest is the online exhibition, Spices: Exotic Flavors and Medicines, developed by the History and Special Collections Division of the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.

Julie K. Kwan
Associate Director
UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library & UCLA Science and Engineering Library

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