Good morning! We hope you had a great weekend. While not snowed in, the UC Food Observer caught up on some reading, much of which focused on cooking and community.

On today’s menu:


ICYMI, a cooking class where new immigrants learn the recipe for English. A Philadelphia program called Edible Alphabet is teaching recent immigrants English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL)…and cooking that emphasizes good nutrition. Edible Alphabet is run through the city’s public library – taught in the central branch’s commercial kitchen –  in collaboration with the Nationalities Service Center, a non-profit that helps refugees. The classes are led by both a chef and an ESL instructor. In addition to boosting language and cooking skills, food is proving a wonderful way to connect people of diverse backgrounds.

“ESL instructor Jillian Gierke says the class is about much more than just learning English.

“This is about welcoming new Philadelphians to the city,” she says. “There is no better way to do that than to share a meal together.””

The Edible Alphabet program uses recipes from a cookbook called “Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day,” by Leanne Brown. This book provides recipes for meals that “are affordable for someone on SNAP benefits” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps). The recipes are healthy, easy to prepare and encourage using seasonally available foods. The book also has a helpful section on supermarket strategies.

Neema Roshania writes this uplifting piece for NPR’s the Salt. A must read.

Editor’s NoteThe UC Food Observer bought two copies of “Good and Cheap” over the holidays. One was gifted to a college student; the other copy is in her kitchen. It’s a stellar cookbook and has quickly become a favorite. A bonus? For every copy that’s purchased, a free copy is donated to an individual or family in need. If you can’t afford to purchase the book or want to try some recipes first, author Leanne Brown has made recipes from the first edition free under a Creative Commons license. Learn more about this incredibly cool project here.  And a final thought about the Edible Alphabet program…wouldn’t it be great if every public library system had a commercial kitchen?


Cooking up a revolution. Jonathan Gold, restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times, has written a stellar piece about Locol, a “quick-serve” restaurant that recently opened in Watts. Locol is the first in “a planned fast-food chain specializing in healthful, inexpensive fare.” The project is the brainchild of accomplished chefs/activists Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, who hope to bring their food “into the areas that need it the most.” You’ll want to read this piece to learn more about Locol’s menu…and about Choi and Patterson; their stories are fascinating. Gold also provides a terrific rundown about the work of a number of other notable chef activists, including Dan Barber. It was wonderful to see this piece on the front page of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. #goodread #longread


Could a discontinued USDA program have prevented the recent listeria outbreak in Dole lettuce? Food safety expert Bill Marler provides information and observations about the USDA’s Microbiological Data Program (MDP), which ended in 2012…and offers reasons why it should have received continued funding. We’ll never know what could have been, but this is an interesting read.


Have a great day!