Local Flavor’s favorite kind of books just happen to be cookbooks.

Novels and biographies are great, but step-by-step instructions to make a tasty dish can be just as enriching.

Albright Memorial Library’s reference department, including head of reference Martina Soden and librarian Alyssa Loney, know this to be true and came up with a delicious idea for a virtual program.

After hearing about a different library’s similar program at the Pennsylvania Library Association Conference, the department decided to offer a weekly virtual cookbook club. A member of the Scranton library’s staff tries to make one of the hundreds of recipes from the library’s collection of digitized church and community cookbooks, including those from Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives. The department then shares the recipes, step-by-step photos and the results on the library’s Facebook page, and it encourages people to follow along at home and make the dishes themselves.

That’s why Loney’s take on Peckville United Methodist Church’s Shepherd’s Pie is this week’s Local Flavor Gives Back recipient. The recipe earned the library a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore.

A great winter recipe, Shepherd’s Pie can come in different forms, but this version — from the church’s “Beary Good Cooking For Feeding the Flock” — consists of roast beef, mashed potatoes, celery, onion and spices. While the library usually chooses simple recipes, sometimes staff members have to decode notes left in the margins of the cookbooks or swap in modern substitutes since the cookbooks come from the 1940s through 1990s. The Shepherd’s Pie recipe, for instance, calls for “oleo,” which Loney would change to margarine.

“We try to break it down as best we can,” she said.

Though the library is closed to the public until at least Saturday, Jan. 2, because of the coronavirus pandemic, it still has plenty of programs to keep residents occupied at home. The library is hosting holiday stories for children on Facebook Live a few times per week as well as Zoom classes focusing on Microsoft software including PowerPoint and Excel, and the Google equivalents. The Albright also has a parents’ portal to help navigate virtual learning on Tuesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays are game night on Twitch from 7 to 8 p.m., and every Tuesday on the library’s Instagram account, Loney hosts trivia night, which followers seem to enjoy, she said.

As for the weekly recipes, many residents and Northeast Pennsylvania natives have commented with their own memories of the featured dishes, and the library always is looking for recipe suggestions, Loney said.

“It’s so nice to see the community get involved and be so responsive,” she added. “It’s a good way to get people together with their families this year, whether those in the same home or virtually. It’s nice being able to showcase these comfort foods or (dishes) that remind them of their grandma’s cooking.”



Shepherd’s Pie

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon oleo
  • 3 cup cooked roast beef, coarsely
  • 1 teaspoon oregano ground or diced
  • 1 1/2 cup beef gravy
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups seasoned mashed potatoes
  • Dash of paprika
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Saute onion and celery in oleo. Stir in beef, oregano and gravy. Add seasonings. Place mixture in a buttered, shallow two-quart casserole. Spoon mashed potatoes over top. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.