By Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
Children in the Bangor Public Library’s Fizz, Boom, Read! Summer Reading Program are getting a taste for more than reading. They are being encouraged to talk about, read about and learn how to prepare food with Shane Layman of Bradley in his Cooking with Shane sessions. Layman has worked at the library for seven years.
“I’ve always cooked,” Layman said. “I have great memories of cooking in the kitchen with my mother. You don’t appreciate it then, but when you look back you realize those are the moments that create who you’re going to be.”
Layman has been conducting the Cooking with Shane programs at the library for five or six years. “Food is a great draw for people,” he said. “It’s a great equalizer. Everyone needs to eat.” Layman brings all the ingredients and his own pots, pans and utensils for his cooking demonstrations.
While the children in the program do not do the actual cooking, Layman demonstrates with real ingredients and utensils how a recipe is made, perhaps baking it in the oven in the tiny kitchen off the Story Room. The children are given the recipe to take home and encouraged to prepare it at home with the help of their parents.
Cooking with Shane is open to pre-kindergarten through fifth-grader children.
Because the Summer Reading Program is called Fizz, Boom, Read!, Layman has given a science theme to his cooking sessions.
“We will make homemade cream cheese and ricotta cheese,” Layman. “We will talk about curds and whey.”
He also will do a session on bicarbonates, how it makes cakes and other foods rise when it is baked. “We’ll do Red Velvet cake and blueberry quick bread,” he said. He also will demonstrate how cream puffs are made, complete with custard filling and chocolate ganache, and talk about how overworking the gluten in the flour traps air inside and makes the cream puffs rise.
A lot of the recipes Layman uses in his demonstrations are ones he made cooking with his mother or recipes he got from her; other things he picked up on his own, he said.
“My hope is that the children will have fun with the recipe and enjoy it,” Layman said. He wants them to know they can make anything work in cooking as long as they know the basics. “That’s also true of life,” he said.
During the school year, Layman does Teen Chef sessions with sixth- through 12th-graders. He describes it as a foodie group where talk of food is intermingled with cooking demonstrations. Group members make suggestions for what they want to learn to make. “They almost always have a memory connected with food,” he said. Requests have included spring rolls with tofu and salty ice cream. Sometimes, he will alter a suggested recipe to make it healthier or more economical to make.
“Every once in a while we all need to make something that isn’t strictly healthy,” he said.
While the core group numbers approximately eight, Layman said he would like to see more teens participate. He would like to compile a cookbook using the recipes the youngsters bring from home and the stories behind them, and have copies available to borrow from the library.
Layman, who worked as a chef at St. Joseph Hospital before going to work at the library, enjoys baking. “I have a vicious sweet tooth,” he said. “I love to bake, especially in the fall and winter.” Some of his favorites are cheesecake, pies, brownies and cookies, and candies at holiday time. His favorite recipe is Oreo cheesecake, which he has demonstrated during the summer reading program.
“I’m always amazed by the kids, how open minded they are, how expansive their palates are. They will eat most anything. They want to try new foods. They are willing to try most anything I make,” Layman said. And that includes barbecue chicken pizza with caramelized onions.
“My hope is that they get excited about cooking, have fun, learn lessons they use later in life and create great memories. It’s what matters later in life,” he said.
Cooking with Shane takes place 11 a.m.-noon Fridays, through July 25, except for Friday, July 4, when the library is closed.
For information about Cooking with Shane or Teen Chefs, call the library at 947-8336 or go to bangorlibrary.org.