The Oak Park Public Library (OPPL) is inviting community members to add their treasured family recipes to a virtual community cookbook entitled, Many Recipes, Many Stories. 

Juanita Harrell, health and wellness librarian, reinvented the teen and adult summer reading program in response to COVID-19. The all-virtual program entitled Many Voices, Many Stories featured six books from various genres about immigration including 1919 by Eve L. Ewing and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. 

In conjunction with the program, she and co-workers Rose Barnes and Kristen Romanowski have introduced an on-line cookbook through biblioboard in hopes of creating an anthology of recipes that reflect food traditions in the Oak Park community.

“The summer reading program was designed to celebrate different cultures and backgrounds,” said Harrell. “The cookbook is there for people to share a family recipe that has been passed down through the generations.”

The project is in its infancy and currently contains less than a dozen recipes, but librarians are eager to see the collection grow. Currently visitors can find local cookbook author, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s recipe for Sri Lankan beef curry on the website as well as Swedish Cardamom Buns and Street Style Elotes from other contributors. Barnes submitted her recipe for strawberry basil pie to the growing recipe collection, while Harrell, still needs to get her mother’s approval before submitting her family’s favorite fried peach pie recipe.

“Oak Park is a diverse and open community,” said Barnes, adult digital learning librarian. “Trying to capture that spirit in a cookbook is interesting to me.”

Barnes can be seen in a short video on the OPPL website explaining how to submit a digital recipe and optional photo. The process is quick and easy, but people with questions or technical issues are encouraged to reach out via email (contactus@oppl.org) for assistance.

“We’d love people to submit stories with their recipes,” said Romanowski. “If people think that is too much just a recipe is more than fine. Don’t feel like you have to tell a story, too.”

All three librarians are steadfast in the belief that recipes, especially those passed down through generations, can build connections and a sense of community. They want Many Recipes, Many Stories to “preserve, sustain and celebrate our community’s rich history and unique diversity.”

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