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From The Desk Of The Parker Library Director: How About A Cookbook Club?

Dec 16, 2017 01:31PM ● By Theresa Gilman

Dracut Public Library

Parker Library Director, Nanci Hill

Growing up in a Sicilian family, Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  Christmas meant the gathering of family.  We would converge on my Nonna's tiny apartment on Christmas Eve, for the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  We had everything from fried shrimp patties to baccala, from baked haddock to marinated octopus salad (of which I refused to partake) -- and even raw sea urchins (called ricci)!  After the meal came an endless parade of desserts, but first we had fruits and nuts.  I love the smell of the roasting chestnuts to this day.  Later, the cousins would squeeze into the hallway and sit on the stairs going up to my aunt and uncle's apartment (God forbid we go up there and dirty things!), playing games that we made up while the grown-ups played cards and drank Sambuca.  Later in the evening, my father would sit at the piano. We would beg my uncle to take out his accordion.  He would always refuse until we had sufficiently begged, and then he would drag it out to accompany my dad.  The whole family would then sing Christmas carols, thick accents and all.  It was quite the scene, as you might imagine.

Christmas afternoon we would start the whole thing all over again - this time with lasagna and turkey. We would all declare ourselves stuffed, but that didn't stop us from having sausages a couple of hours later.

My Nonna has long since passed away, as have most of my aunts and uncles.  The children had children, and now their children are having children.  We're far too big in number to still celebrate all together, so we have taken to celebrating with our individual families, in our individual homes.  I still miss those holidays of yore.  I miss the sights and sounds and smells of yesteryear.  We've changed so many things, but we've also managed to keep some things the same.  One way that we try to do this is by still having some of the traditional foods that we used to have. 

A few years ago, I gave my Dad a cookbook that I had found online.  To this day, it's one of our favorites.  Sweet Sicily: the Story of an Island and her Pastries by Victoria Granof (2001) remains one of my favorite cookbooks to this day. Not only does it include regional dessert recipes for all things sweet, but it also includes stories of the festivals, customs, and anecdotes from Sicily.

I've been giving my father an Italian cookbook every year since that first cookbook.  He's enjoyed some more than others. The Sopranos Family Cookbook as Compiled by Artie Bucco by Allen Rucker (2002) has been his go-to cookbook for arranccini. Coming Home to Sicily: Seasonal Harvests and Cooking from Case Vecchie by Fabrizia Lanza (2012), is beautifully written with former Gourmet magazine editor Kate Winslow.  It tells Fabrizia's story of coming home from north Italy to run the family estate and continue on with the cooking school that her mother created. Nonna's House: Cooking and Reminiscing with the Italian Grandmothers of Entoteca Maria (2015) features delicious recipes and colorful stories from the internationally celebrated grandmothers of Entoeca Maria; a one-of-a-kind Italian restaurant where a rotating cast of Nonnas are star chefs.

The one thing that all of these cookbooks have in common is that they are more than just cookbooks. They also tell the story of the food, the region, or the restaurant. 

Several libraries in the region have started Cookbook Book Clubs.  What are your thoughts on that? Is that a book club that you would attend? Would you want us to all read the same book and bring samples of the recipes? What about choosing a theme each month and everyone reading and sharing a cookbook they've read with that theme?  I'm very interesting in hearing your thoughts.  Please email me at [email protected] and put "Cookbook Club" in the subject line.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza or some other holiday, the staff and Trustees of the Dracut Library wish you the Happiest of Holidays!

As always, I am available to meet and talk with you.  This is your library and we want to hear what you think! 

Nanci Hill, Library Director

Important Dates

  • Christmas Holiday - The Library will close at 12:00 pm on Friday, December 22nd, and will remain CLOSED through Monday, December 25th. We will re-open at 8:30 AM on Tuesday, December 23rd.
  •  New Year's Day - The Library will be CLOSED on Monday, January 1, 2018, in observance of New Year's Day.
  • Monthly Meeting of the Board of Library Trustees - Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 4:30 PM in the Director's Office. Open Meeting.
  • Friends of the Dracut Library - Wednesday, January 30th at 6:30 pm. All are welcome. 

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