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June 7, 2013

Book Notes: Peabody library offers class on food writing

Library offers class on food writing

Cooking and writing — and reading and eating — have a closer connection than you might think.

“Food writing has exploded in the last five years,” said Keja Valens, an English professor at Salem State, who will teach a two-part “Introduction to Food Writing” at the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody starting Monday at 7 p.m.

“It’s not just recipes,” she said, “but thinking about food in writing.”

Valens will discuss food writers like Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan, whose book “Cooked” is recommended reading for the class.

“We’ll be thinking about political and environmental engagements with food around the local food movement, and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) in particular,” Valens said.

The library and the city of Peabody are sponsoring a CSA, which allows participants who purchase a share to pick up locally grown, fresh produce at the library all summer. Valens’ class will begin with the environmentalist theories behind CSAs, which include the notion that growing and shipping food locally uses less energy.

Most food writing is recorded on blogs, Valens noted, and sharing information on blogs about farmers markets and CSAs, while also recording recipes, makes food writing another local practice.

“As you go local, you go decentralized, and the blogosphere is decentralized,” said Valens, who has been blogging at www.cookingtheseasons.com since 2009. “And it’s very collaborative. Farmers and home cooks working together and blogging is an easy, low-tech, low-cost way to connect.”

Important lessons to learn from food writers, Valens said, are that the food they promote isn’t more expensive, cooking it fits into a busy schedule, and it tastes great.

“My love of local and seasonal cooking is not only about the smaller impact it has on the planet,” she said, “but also on the flavor and pleasure we discover.”

For more information, call 978-531-0100 ext. 10, or visit www.peabodylibrary.org.

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