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There is nothing I enjoy more than a cloudy and snowy afternoon, a comfy chair, a soft, warm throw and a good book. Actually, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good book and reading in any number of places no matter what the weather.

I also enjoy a good reason to read beside my own pleasure, so when I read Tammy Real-McKeighan’s January 2 column about the Winter Reading Challenge in support of the Keene Memorial Library, I went right to the library to find out more information. That really wasn’t necessary because Tammy’s column told me everything I needed to know.

The Annual Beanstack Winter Reading Challenge is sponsored by Penguin Random House publishers to encourage reading and support of libraries. 1500 schools and libraries are expected to take part in the challenge for prizes that include author visits and new books for your favorite library’s shelves.

It’s very simple to sign up for the challenge. I simply went online at keene.beanstack.org where I created an account and started reading.

The competition runs from January 1 to January 31 so you are a bit behind, but if you sign up today you can easily make the goal of reading 465 minutes during the month.

Keene Memorial Library is hoping 300 readers will read and log 15 minutes of reading per person per day. It is good news for moms and dads that reading to your kids counts. This is a wonderful encouragement to start a lifelong love of reading.

Since this is a cooking column, you might think I’m going to encourage you to read cookbooks. I do enjoy reading a good cookbook, but I also have a nice selection of food-themed books that don’t necessarily have a recipe in them.

I know you can find them at our library or get them through the interlibrary loan program. You can also look for them at my favorite local bookstore Yankee Peddler West or at Dave’s Drive-In Liquor where your purchase supports our local library.

Here are some of my suggestions for a good culinary read:

  • “The Little House Cookbook – Frontier Foods” from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker with illustrations by Garth Williams. Any fan of the Little House books or television series will appreciate this lovely volume that pairs food stories from Wilder’s books with authentic recipes. My girls received this book when they were young and not only did we enjoy the book, we enjoyed making some of the classic recipes as well.
  • “The Ladies Aid Cookbook” by Beatrice Vaughn is a collection of recipes and stories about the many women who cook to raise money for church and community needs. Most of these stories come from the Northeast section of the country (Ms. Vaughn is from Vermont), but any woman who has cooked for a church or community supper to raise funds for various projects will relate to these tales. This book has great stories and great recipes.
  • Julie Powell is the author of two of my favorite books—“Julie & Julia” and “Cleaving, A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession.” The first was the basis of the movie of the same title that tells the story of Ms. Powell life-changing experience of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s famous “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. It’s just delightful. The second is a story about butchering and how this obsession changed Ms. Powell’s life. This one is not for the weak-stomached – after all, it’s about butchery, but the correlations she makes between meat cutting and life are interesting to say the least.
  • “As Always, Julia” is a collection of the letters of Julia Child and Avis Devoto edited by Joan Reardon. Avis and Julia struck up a delightful friendship as pen pals who discussed everything from the cookbook Julia was writing to American politics after World War II. As someone whose two greatest interests are history and food, this volume is a delight to me.
  • “Hidden Kitchens – Stories, Recipes and More” from NPR’s the Kitchen Sisters by Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson. This volume tells the stories of our country’s best dishes and those who prepare them – from the Chili Queens of San Antonio to Foraging with Angelo Garro. It’s a lovely read that tells the story of the melting pot of American cuisine in a delightful way.
  • Michael Pollan writes about food questions that we all ask. My favorite Pollan book is “InDefense of Food – An Eater’s Manifesto.” Mr. Pollan always gives me plenty to think about. I don’t agree with every theory he postulates, but I always find him thought-provoking.
  • “97 Orchard” by Jane Ziegelman is “An edible history of five immigrant families in one New York tenement.” This book traces what the different waves of immigrants would have eaten as they lived at this address between the years of 1863 and 1935 on the Lower East Side of the city. This book starts with the Lucas Glockner family who built 97 Orchard and lived in the building for several years and ends with the Baldizzis who were Sicilian immigrants and the subject of the last story about those who occupied the building. This volume is a history lesson that is highly enjoyable to read complete with authentic recipes from each time and culture. I recommend it highly.
  • “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister is my current reading project. My friend, Jean, lent it to me thinking I would enjoy it and she was right. This volume has been described as “a delicate, meltingly lovely hymn to food and friendship.” I am enchanted by Ms. Bauermeister’s use of language to describe the food that is made by the protagonist of this volume who runs a restaurant and cooking school. It was published in 2009 so its not a new volume, but it is a beautifully written one.

How about something delicious to sip on as you read on a cold day? Butter Coffee is a lovely hot beverage rich with good fats that keep you satisfied so you can read about delectable foods without hunger pangs. This is the version that I make after combining elements of several different recipes. I’m happy every time I make a cup.

Butter Coffee

1 cup hot coffee

1 and one-half teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon cream

Blend all ingredients until frothy. You can use a blender (be careful – don’t let the lid explode with the hot liquid), an aero latte, or any hot chocolate machine.

Quote of the Week: To read is pure joy! To cook is pure joy! To read about cooking is double joy! — Ginny Barton

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Ellen Lund of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.

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