Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Food Librarian's Got A Bundt (Or 30) In The Oven

As much as we here at Book Patrol love the written word, let's face it: man does not live by books alone. So thank goodness for The Food Librarian and her bountiful, beautiful baking blog. Mary (No last name. This woman has a unique talent to rival Voltaire, Homer, or Saki. She don't need no stinkin' last name.) is a librarian somewhere in the greater Los Angeles area. Like her literary namesake, Mary Poppins, our Mary knows that just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. The medicine in this case being a lot of nice plugs for libraries.

Mary began her blog, The Food Librarian, in May 2007. Her first step? Checking out Baking Illustrated by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine from the library where she works. Her blog details the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of a beginning baker. Here are just a few reasons to check out this blog:

Mary's a beginner, so sometimes she fails. But she always 'fesses up to it. Like the time she used baking soda instead of baking powder and her blueberry muffins tasted like "pieces of salty metal." And all of the blueberries in those less-than-sweet treats sank to the bottom, resulting in "smurf-butt muffins." So Mary's "baked bads" fed her friend "Mr. Trashcan." Fiascoes like this reassure a reader that even the best baker brings out the occasional bad batch. But baking bibliophiles forge on, determined to create comestibles as memorable as Proust's madeleines.

Mary thoughtfully includes links to Worldcat in her blog, so you can easily find out if the cookbooks that inspire her are available at your local library. Naturally, she always credits the original source of her recipes, making this blog a great source for tried and tested baking books.

Mary understands the value of her library's decades-deep collection of periodicals and newspapers. Sunset Magazine serves up such sweet souvenirs of the swinging 60's as Fuyu Persimmon Bundt Cake and Broiled Nectarine Halves. And when Mary wanted to bake a chronologically correct creation for the season premiere of Mad Men, she turned to the September 5, 1963 edition of The New York Times. A batch of Dutch Cinnamon Apple Cakes to do Betty Draper proud was the rich result of her research. Though as Mary sagely remarks: "I doubt Don Draper would eat these...because there is no alcohol or cigarettes in them."

To make the more tedious aspects of baking palatable, Mary suggests that her readers find out if their libraries provide "downloadable audio books." She confesses she "wouldn't have made it this far in [her] bundt making without Michael Connelly." And generously adds that: "If he were real, I'd give Detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch a bundt."

Mary shares her baked goods to her library co-workers, so she doesn't wind up with type 2 diabetes. She knows that librarians and baked goods go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Haven't you ever noticed those ubiquitous "Book And Bake Sales?"

Mary understands the importance of holidays. Now you might be thinking: "Most people bake for the holidays, why does Mary stand out?" Well, how are you planning to celebrate National Bundt Day? Mary's marking that red letter day in style. She's baking "30 Bundts in 30 Days." With a little help from Sir Mix-A-Lot, Mary's telling the world: "I Like Big Bundts." The Food Librarian will be cooking up a luscious cake in a teflon-coated, donut-shaped pan every single day from October 15, 2009 until the actual big bundt day, November 15. Mary's whipping up so many sweets that she's sharing the wealth with "neighboring libraries" to avoid sending her colleagues into sugar shock.

Mary's blog includes mouth-watering photos of each of her consummate confections. And like every good librarian, Mary is nothing if not thorough. She always posts a cross section shot of a single serving of her latest creation, along with a wide shot of the whole megillah. Warning: Don't start reading The Food Librarian blog if you're on one of those "I might as well be dead" low fat/low sugar diets. Or even if you're just a wee bit hungry. You might just find yourself unable to resist the temptation to tie on an apron.

Mary's bundt-a-thon has been featured in American Libraries, and her blog has been served up to readers of Information Outlook, the journal of the Special Libraries Association. (Do you think there's any chance Mary might send a bundt to a fellow librarian/blogger who writes a post about her Big Bundt Bake-Off? Just wondering...)

Late (coffee) breaking development: The big bundts on The Food Librarian blog inspired two terrific bakers at MY library, Irma and Sybil, to make the Fuyu Persimmon Bundt Cake. (And muchas gracias for bringing in those fresh persimmons from your Dad's tree, Dennis.) Yummy! Thanks a bundt for the great recipe, Mary. No need to send that cake my way after all.

Photos by Mary, The Food Librarian.

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