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Books & bread


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 01, 2009

They tell you not to eat or drink in the library. Books and crumbs—not a good mix.

But at the Kahuku Public Library, branch manager Fran Corcoran has been encouraging not just eating, but cooking in the library—on certain days and under controlled conditions. “;We have had some wonderful classes with local cooks,”; Corcoran said.

Classes are held on Tuesday nights whenever Corcoran can schedule them, and have covered such topics as diabetic cooking, calcium-rich foods, Christmas cookies and a session with Turtle Bay chef Hector Morales. A “;Flavors of Travel”; series featured foods from the Middle East, China, Africa, India and England; “;Taste of My Neighbor's Homeland”; included dishes from Brazil, Laos, Thailand, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, China and Slovakia.

The library has an electric stovetop, but most instructors use hot plates, slow-cookers or electric woks to bring their lessons to the library, Corcoran said.

The library doesn't have an oven, so Donnette Tew, who taught a class last week on bread-making, had to bring finished samples from home. But participants still got their hands on some dough, forming their own buns and rolls to take home and bake.

Tew is an experienced bread-maker who also is a volunteer reader for the library's Keiki Storytime. She led more than 30 people in a lesson on making dinner rolls, cinnamon buns, taco rings and more. The crowd was lively and loud for a library, as everyone chatted and shared the ingredients that Tew had brought for the group.

“;It's fun to watch people get excited,”; Tew said. “;It's hands-on—give them a rolling pin and a piece of dough and they find out how easy it is.”;

Growing up in a large family with eight younger siblings, Tew baked bread as one of her responsibilities. For 13 years, she's been teaching the skills that she learned in her youth in venues from libraries and universities to small classes in people's homes.

With more than 100 classes under her belt, she believes that the adage “;Give a man a fish, you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime,”; applies to bread-making, as well.

Some people are deterred by the two hours it takes to allow for dough to rise and bake, but Tew said the results are worth the time commitment. Bread is cheap to make, she said, an important consideration given the rising cost of food in Hawaii. “;And it's not an unreasonable amount of work if you bake bread for your own family. There are so many different things to do with dough.”;

Tew has her own large family, which includes five children, ages 1 to 16, all adopted from various countries, and she's teaching them to be bakers, too. “;My two older daughters enjoy making bread and cinnamon rolls. The boys enjoy cooking, too.”;

One of the participants in Tew's class was Ipo Uluave, a mother of five, who was amazed at how many different options were available by using Tew's basic dough recipe. She was rolling out cinnamon twists and chicken rolls to take home. In addition to appreciating the low cost of bread-making, Uluave added, “;This gave us more ideas on things to do with our kids.”;

Corcoran says she tries to schedule cooking classes monthly. The next one will cover Hawaiian herbs for food and healing, 6 p.m. April 14. In June, she plans a cupcake class to go along with the summer reading program theme, “;Let's Get Creative”;; and In July, a session on pickling vegetables.

“;I've tried to bring in more patrons by a diverse programming schedule,”; Corcoran said. “;The food programs do draw more patrons than other ideas I've had. The food focus came because we figured everyone likes to eat.”;