Recipes and Reads: Culinary Labs

Culinary Lab workshops serve up comprehensive, culinary literacy programs that include hands-on demonstrations of food and nutritional literacy; food acquisition methods; food handling, hygiene and safety; culture and history of food; and consumer cost-saving techniques and meal stretching.  Each of the culinary lab workshops may include the use of fully stocked mobile, kitchen carts to aid in these food-related demonstrations.  The labs are strategically located at library branches throughout the county and serve all ages.  Registration may be required, at some locations, for Recipes and Reads: Culinary Lab workshops. 

Culture and History of Food

Certain types of foods and recipes have value in cultures, traditions, and history. When people seek out those recipes for holiday celebrations, the foods connect people to a culture or history that has been handed down from generation to generation. This practice – the intersection of food with culture in history – is called “foodways.”

The people who prepare the food are another essential element in the history and culture of food. Florida is home to a diverse group of foodways including Spanish, Greek, Minorcan, Jamaican, and Cuban to name just a few.

Historical Recipe to Try:

Lemon Sponge Cake

WWII Era Recipe from the Knott House in Tallahassee, FL


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


1. Preheat oven to 325° F. and get out 9-inch angel food pan (or “tube” pan).

2. Separate the eggs into two bowls a larger one for the yolks. Beat the yolks with a whisk until thickened and are the color of lemons. Beat in the sugar little by little until it is thoroughly mixed. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and beat well.

3. In the second bowl, beat the eggs whites until they are white and frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt. Continue beating the egg whites until stiff peaks form, but they are not dry.

4. Fold the whites into the egg yolk mixture. Pour the batter into the ungreased pan.

5. Bake for 1 hour or so until it springs back when touched. Once cooled, run a knife along the outer edge, and invert onto a cake plate.

Recipe from: “WWII Era Recipes from the Knott House”

Photo Credit: (State Archives of Florida/Ensley)

Recommended reads

Book cover for the title Field to FeastField to Feast by Pam Brandon.

Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand, and Heather McPherson travelled thousands of miles, tasting some of the freshest ingredients along the way. They found world-famous chefs who eagerly shared their best recipes to highlight those flavours. The result is a cookbook like no other; a delicious celebration of Florida food and cooking that'll lead you from the kitchen to the farmers' market and home again.

Reserve a copy

Book cover for the title The Columbia RestaurantThe Columbia Restaurant by Andrew T Huse.

The Columbia is Florida's oldest and most honored restaurant. Founded in 1905 as a cafe catering to immigrant cigar workers in Ybor City, it has grown into one of the culinary touchstones of the state. Handed down from generation to generation, the Columbia remains family owned and operated, with seven locations from St. Augustine to Sarasota.

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Book cover for the title The Lee Bros. Southern CookbookThe Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee.

The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook tells the story of the brothers' culinary coming-of-age in Charleston--how they triumphed over their northern roots and learned to cook southern without a southern grandmother. With helpful sourcing and substitution tips, this is a practical and personal guide that will have readers cooking southern tonight, wherever they live.

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Book cover for the title Cross Creek KitchensCross Creek Kitchens by Sally Morrison.

Interlaced with stories of life in Cross Creek, this new edition remains amazingly relevant to today's food trends. More than 150 recipes reflects the seasons' bounties and focus on natural ingredients; the Sweet 'Tater Pie, for example, calls for cane syrup or honey as a healthier alternative to refined sugar. Other tasty recipes found in Cross Creek Kitchens include Southern Pea Soup, Kate's Hogwild Macaroni and Cheese, Beach Grouper, Gingerbread Waffles, South Moon Persimmon Bread, Orange Blossom Carrot Cake, and a variety of cornbread variations.
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Upcoming programs

All Recipes and Reads programs

Division of Library and Information Services Institute of Museum and Library Services

This project was funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Florida’s LSTA program is administered by the Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services.