Cookbook collection at U of T Scarborough highlights local and international recipes

Whitney Kemble is the curator of cookbook collection at U of T Scarborough.
UTSC Library cookbook collection is a useful resource for food studies courses and everyday cooking.(Photo by Ken Jones)

Raquel A. Russell

Looking to try out a new recipe after school? Thanks to a new UTSC Library collection, you’re in luck.

A collection of cookbooks is now available for experimenting in the U of T Scarborough library, and all students are invited to check it out. More than 100 cookbooks are on the bottom shelves of the multi-medium display case in UTSC Library’s Reading Room.

“With the development of food studies courses, the Culinaria Research Centre and now the Food Studies minor program, I started to get a lot of requests for cookbooks – so I decided to develop a collection,” says Whitney Kemble, the collection’s curator and U of T Scarborough librarian. 

“I decided it would be nice to develop a niche cookbook collection for students to engage with them as primary sources, but also take them out and use for personal use,” she says.

“I decided it would be nice to develop a niche cookbook collection for students to engage with them as primary sources, but also take them out and use for personal use,” says Kemble.

Kemble officially started the collection in 2015 after receiving requests from faculty in the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies. Students use the books to complete coursework that’s done about food around the world and in Scarborough, a region that was once referred to as the “dining capital of the world” by American author and economist, Tyler Cowen.

“I thought that they could add value, not just to the food studies students, but to the general student population, faculty and staff – everyone’s got to eat,” she says.

The collection is made up of international and national publications that include Toronto-based travel chefs, cookbooks with Indigenous, East Asian and South Asian recipes and surveys of culturally specific cookbooks in works such as The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.

Notable works also include Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and American chef and television personality, Julia Child. Another work that stands out on the shelves with its purple velvet cover is Dining with the Maharajas - a book by author Neha Prasada, on the culinary traditions and lifestyles of the Indian royalty.

Through the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies community connections, she has even received some donations to the collection, and as it grows, hopes to include even more works by local and national cookbook authors.

“I’m trying to gather more locally relevant cookbooks to represent more of Scarborough’s diverse communities and cultures,” says Kemble.

She is now working on developing some other regions of cuisine within the collection, such as the Caribbean and Philippines, “so that more people who live here and are from here can see their cultures and foods reflected in the collection.”

In addition to a vendor used by the UTSC Library and faculty requests, Kemble uses social media to learn about unique cookbooks. “I’m tapped into some cookbook writing and food history groups, so I can spot relevant books to buy.”  

Kemble is pleased to see the collection being incorporated into food studies courses noting its usefulness for research subjects that include gender in the kitchen and the history of food in the city.

“I know that the faculty are excited about the collection, and as students continue to be made aware of it – I think they will be too.”


Contact Whitney Kemble for more details on the UTSC Library cookbook collection.