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Teens in the Library Kitchen

January 29, 2023

In my time as a young adult/teen librarian, I've now done my fair share of cooking programs. Although these are some of the most chaotic programs one can do (the cleanup is the worst part), they're so rewarding! 

The best things about the cooking programs are that they not only encourage teens to try out new cooking skills, but they also are a great way for them to be introduced to new foods in cultures they may not get introduced to otherwise. Even if at the end of all the hard work, if they don't like the dish, well, they still learned about and tried something new! And at the end of the day that is what it's all about: broadening horizons and taste buds alike.

On that note, I'd like to share some dishes we've made in our teen room at the Green Hills library and give you some cookbook recommendations so that you can recreate them yourself!

Matzo Ball Soup: The Original Program

matzo balls

Our first cooking program we ever did was making Matzo Ball Soup! One of our amazing librarians volunteered to teach the teen staff and the teens who visit after school how to put this recipe together. It was an absolute hit, which was a surprise to me because the soup is full of delicious vegetables...which is quite different from the Hot Cheetos and Takis that are usually consumed by the afterschool crowd. 

We had a prep table for chopping onions, celery, and carrots, and then another table dedicated to cooking the soup and putting all the ingredients and spices together. It was such a comforting meal, and we all learned more about the Jewish holiday of Passover while putting it all together.

prep table

For similar dishes, I recommend: 

Mitarashi Dango: The Teen-Led Program


This program was a special one because one of our regular teens volunteered to share a dish that they love to make! Mitarashi dango is a delicious treat originating from Japan, and it's definitely something many of us have never had the chance to try.

Making this dish was one of my favorite programs because it was the only programs we've done where library staff took a backseat and got to learn from a teen patron. The teen just made a list of ingredients needed, we got them, and voila: a fun program of forming glutinous rice flour into a sticky snack.

For similar dishes, I recommend:

Dosas: A Favorite of Mine

My husband introduced me to dosas early on in our relationship, and they are a game changer. Dosas are basically savory Indian crepes that you can eat with various chutneys and curries, and the best part: they are heavy in protein. Their main ingredients are lentils and rice, and with this being a staple in our home, I wanted to share this recipe with our teens.

For those unfamiliar with Indian cooking, dosas are a great gateway snack. They're crispy and mild, and if you want them spicy, you can add your level of spiciness to them!

I highly recommend everyone who has never had a dosa to go get one now...or check out this cookbook and make one for yourself:

One of the wonderful things about our library system here in Nashville is we're more than just books! I never thought I'd be hosting cooking classes as a librarian, but they have been some of my very favorite days on the job. Keep an eye out on the events calendar and see what cooking classes may be available near you!



Jessica is a Young Adult Librarian at the Green Hills branch. Some of her favorite things are reading, writing, coffee, her husband, and her cats – all the stereotypical librarian things. When she’s not at the library, you can probably find her curled up on the couch playing Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley on her Nintendo Switch.