It’s no wonder that cookbooks are one of the most highly checked out subjects at the library—food is incredibly important to our daily life, culture, and history. We attribute cookbooks with nourishment, comfort, and for creating events and memories.
Kara Mae Harris, originally from the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington, D.C., provides a remarkable service: archiving Maryland cookbooks. Initially, she started reading cookbooks because she was interested in food, but then started learning about the recipes unique to Maryland, and she was inspired to learn more about the foodways of the state.
On her blog, Old Line Plate, she documents her progress, tries out recipes, and interviews authors of recently published cookbooks. Some of her most recent posts talk about blackberry pie, gumbo, and Baltimore Peach Cake. She’s also mapped out the 512 recipes found in “Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Maryland” online, which you can view through her website.
On Friday, October 12, the Elkton Central Library will be hosting Harris for a special After Hours program, where she will present on her research and the history of Maryland through cookbooks. After her presentation, attendees will be able to find new cookbooks and other books to enjoy. Doors open at 6:15 PM, and the event starts at 6:30 PM.
We asked Harris a few questions:
What inspired you to start archiving cookbooks?
“I was inspired to start archiving cookbooks when I realized just how many Maryland cookbooks there are. Some of them have the same or related recipes so I wanted to compare and contrast.”
What’s the most surprising, or interesting, thing you’ve discovered since starting this project?
“The most surprising thing at first was how vague cookbooks were. Sometimes they have no measurements or cooking times at all. They’d assume that the cook already had some experience.”
Do you have a favorite recipe?
“Aside from anything with crab in it, some of my favorite recipes have been shrubs – a berry syrup made with vinegar, and shad roe – I love that it is so seasonal you can only get it a few weeks a year.
To learn more about Maryland’s history through cookbooks, be sure to stop by the Elkton Central Library on Friday, October 12 at 6:30 PM. Register for the Library After Hours program by calling 410-996-5600 x 481, or by visiting www.cecil.ebranch.info.