Everyone brings something to the table

LIBERTY — Book discussions are nice. But breaking bread together is one of the simplest and most common ways to create a community.

That’s why the Liberty Branch of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library hosts a monthly Cookbook Club, Renee Cambier, branch manager, said.

“Book discussions have never been well-attended at the Liberty Branch,” she said. “I thought this might be another option to bring people together to talk about books, recipes and cooking.

“Club members look through cookbooks and magazines to find a recipe to make for the group to share based on that month’s theme,” she said.

Members also bring a copy of their recipe and the library provides a book with their dishes the following month.

Some of the themes for the Cookbook Club have included Thanksgiving favorites, Idora Park favorites, tailgating, breakfast, desserts and casseroles.

The theme for March was “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” in conjunction with the One Book / One Community reading selection of “Shoeless Joe” by W. P. Kinsella.

“I made gluten-free corn dogs,” club member Ray Cline of Vienna said.

Melanie Kasiewicz of Youngstown based her dish on a favorite at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates: “I made totchos. They are tater tot nachos. Instead of nacho chips on the bottom, you use tater tots and put whatever toppings you want on top of them.”

Some recipes were fine-tuned over the years.

“I made a family recipe of Green Tomato Relish,” Sharon Johnston said.

Eddie Williams made a recipe that was a family joke, but he found that it really exists — onion jelly.

“It tastes really good on hot dogs or sausage sandwiches,” Williams said.

Other club members decided to try making something that they had never prepared.

“I made homemade pretzels with cheddar cheese,” Sharon Johnston said.

Other menu items brought back memories of high school.

“I made Marching Tacos,” Marisa Woolensack of Niles said. “When I was in the Howland band, we would make these on-the-go meals that included layering taco meat, cheese, sour cream and Fritos in a paper bag. I wrote instructions on each bag so everyone knew how to assemble the meal.”

Though he believes that the group is very welcoming, member Art Byrd said he is not as comfortable with what he makes and his perceived cooking ability.

“When I started attending Cookbook Club, I was in learning mode. I would listen and observe how they made their dishes. Most of the ladies used recipes that had been handed down to them or they put their own twists on a recipe they found,” he said. “I usually end up bringing iced tea, which is safe.”

But he likes taking home the monthly club cookbooks. “I really like getting the list of recipes from club members because the dishes are so unique and taste-wise are very interesting,” he said.

Michelle McMahon of Girard said she has a personal reason for attending the group with her daughter. “Marisa is in college and has moved out. This is something that we do together as mother and daughter. She comes to the house and we plan our meal for the theme.”

“It is also a social experience,” Cambier said. “The regulars have become friends and I often have to remind the group that we need to get started because they are so busy chatting and catching up.”

Cambier said that the group is going strong after two years and she views it as a successful endeavor at the library.

“Cookbook Club is now driven by the needs of the group. They pick the meeting dates and themes. I just give them guidance,” Cambier said.