Winter Holiday Foodways and Cookbooks, Part 2 of 2

Cover of Vibration Cooking

This is the second part of a two-part post on Winter Holiday Foodways and Cookbooks, co-written with Monica Berger, our Instruction and Scholarly Communications Librarian. The first part of the blog is here.

For those who love sweets, the winter holidays are a highly anticipated time of year! This is the season when many special desserts are made by diverse cultures to celebrate their holidays.

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, memorializes a miracle during the Jewish rebellion against the Greeks, where the Jews were able to regain the ancient city of Jerusalem, and restore their desecrated Temple in Jerusalem. The miracle was that the oil for the menorah in the Temple, only enough for one night, lasted eight days and nights. To honor the sacred oil, for generations the theme surrounding Hanukkah cuisine has been deep fried foods, including delicious desserts. In Israel, the most popular holiday treat is sufganiyah which translates to doughnut in English. It is a specialty item for the holiday because it’s sweet and deep fried, sold exclusively around the holiday season. Sufganiyot (the plural of sufganiyah in Hebrew) originated in Europe. Jalebi, a treat enjoyed by Iraqi Jews, is basically a funnel cake, made out of a flour-based dough then deep fried and soaked in a sugar syrup. One exception to fried desserts is rugelach, an Eastern European pastry, which are crescent-shaped dough cookies filled with fruit preserves, poppy seeds, or chocolate and nuts. Hanukkah Sweets and Treats is a kid-friendly introduction to making these and more. The Kosher Baker is an excellent resource for dairy-free desserts.

Kwanzaa is an African-American festival that lasts from December 26 through January 1. Its purpose is to celebrate African-American family and community, while honoring African ancestors and culture. The holiday is based on seven guiding principles, one for each day of the observance: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Celebrations begin by lighting candles, giving gifts, and decorating with the African colors of red, green, and black. Throughout the week, favorite African-American dishes, as well as traditional African and Caribbean favorites, are on many menus. On December 31, the holiday culminates in a feast called Karamu. Desserts might include soul food favorites like Sweet Potato Pie, Peach Cobbler, or Caramel Cake. Global Bakery has recipes for delicious cakes from Africa and the Caribbean perfect for Kwanzaa, including Ginger Cake, Rum Cake, and Semolina Cake. A wonderful book on African-American foodways is Vibration Cooking: Or, the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl by Vertamae Smart-Grosveno. It is a cookbook/memoir reflecting on food as a source of pride and validation of Black womanhood, and it inspired filmmaker Julie Dash to make Daughters of the Dust.

Christmas: There are many special treats identified with Christmas, such as German Stollen, Spanish Turrón, French Bûche de Noël, and Italian Panettone and Struffoli. The United States is best known for its varied Christmas cookies that reflect America’s immigrant heritages. City Tech Professor Michael Krondl is a food writer and culinary historian. He is also the author of Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert. You can listen to his recent interview on The Takeaway about the history of Christmas cookies. His story starts in the Middle Ages, when honey and spices were very expensive and reserved for the most special festivities. Because of their precious ingredients, people started making and giving cookies as gifts during the medieval Christmas season. For your own holiday cookie baking, take a look at The Great Minnesota Cookie Book : Award-Winning Recipes from the Star Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest

Winter Holiday Foodways and Cookbooks, Part 1 of 2

Traditionally, holidays are times when families, friends, and communities come together, with food playing an essential role in celebrations. Obviously, the winter holidays (Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and others) will be different this year, as fewer people will gather in groups. However, for comfort, many will still cook up their favorite holiday dishes. 

In New York City, during the winter, people from many different cultures celebrate multiple holidays with unique foods. It is impossible in a short blog post to “give a taste” of the diverse traditional dishes being served this season. Here are just a few holiday highlights, as well as a selection of e-cookbooks available through the library.


Hanukkah is an eight-day festival of lights commemorating the miracle when—after the Second Temple was desecrated then rededicated—one day’s worth of sacred oil for the altar’s eternal lamp lasted eight days. The eight-night celebration of Hanukkah is therefore supposed to include fried foods at the festive meal that is preceded by lighting the menorah, a eight- or nine-branched candelabrum. In Central and Eastern Europe, latkes (potato pancakes) were fried in schmaltz (poultry fat) because potatoes were plentiful while December was the season for slaughtering goose and ducks. Today, many people choose to make their latkes with vegetable oil. Jelly donuts, or sufganiyot, another food deep-fried in oil, are a Hanukkah tradition from Israel popular with Americans. 

Other Hanukkah foods reflect the ethnic diversity of Judaism. For example, Sephardic Jews (Mediterranean Jews) prepare elaborate vegetarian dishes with cheese while many Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews eat roasted brisket as a main dish. For more special Hanukkah recipes, take a look at Sweet Noshings: New Twists on Traditional Jewish Desserts. For a Jewish perspective on Christmas, check out A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to be Jewish.


Many New Yorkers from different cultural backgrounds will soon celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas with big, multi-course feasts. One of the most elaborate feasts is The Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. The Christmas Eve feast may include seven or more specific fish dishes that are considered traditional, such as whiting in lemon, clams in spaghetti, or baccalà (dried, salted cod). If you ever want to try to create your own feast, there are several pesci recipes in Canal House Cooking: Pronto! for you to try.

Filipinos celebrate Christmas from December 16 until the first Sunday of January and the Feast of the Three Kings. After Christmas Eve midnight mass, preparation begins for Noche Buena, when family, friends, and neighbors drop by for an open house celebration. Food is often served in buffet style. Among the typical foods prepared are lechon (roasted pig), queso de bola, ham, spaghetti, and fruit salad. Filipino Family Cookbook : A Treasury of Heirloom Recipes and Heartfelt Stories is a great resource if you’d like to learn more.

For many Latinos in the United States, the holiday season is synonymous with tamales. Mexican Americans often opt for corn-husk-wrapped tamales, while those from Central America typically wrap theirs in banana leaves. And while most Mexican and Central American tamales contain corn-based masa, Puerto Rican pasteles don’t use any, instead using a combination of ground yautía (yuca) and green plátanos (plantains). Tamales, Comadres, and the Meaning of Civilization is filled with family recipes and stories. It also celebrates tamaladas, large family gatherings to prepare the Christmas tamales.


Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday nor a substitute for Christmas, and many people celebrate both. Maulana Karenga founded the weeklong festival in 1966 as a way for African-Americans to celebrate their heritage. Today, Kwanzaa is celebrated across North America and the Caribbean. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith). 

The largest meal—Karamu Ya Imani—is held on December 31. The main dish served tends to be a stew, such as Ghanaian groundnut stew, Cajun jambalaya, Creole gumbo, West Indian curry. Other classics include Hoppin’ John, Nigerian jollof rice, fritters, catfish, collard greens, fried okra, spoonbread, plantains, and  (are you hungry yet?) sweet potato pie. Celebrate Vegan: 200 Life-Affirming Recipes for Occasions Big and Small offers delicious vegan versions of traditional soul food dishes. The Real Jerk : New Caribbean Cuisine provides recipes for Caribbean classics like jerk chicken, sorrel punch, and rum cake.

Michael Twitty is a wonderful food historian and writer who identifies as “an African American who happens to be Jewish, or a Jew who happens to be African American.” He writes a little about Christmas but he writes much more about  Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. His blog is a rich resource for both recipes and food histories. 

Part 2 of this blog will cover delicious sweets and desserts for winter holidays!

Spotlight on library resource: Transgender Studies Quarterly (TSQ)

image of cover of Transgender Studies Quarterly journal with an empty room and broken stairwell in the background

The library has newly subscribed to Transgender studies quarterly (TSQ) from Duke University Press as of last year. We now have access to the complete journal online. In their own words, TSQ “publishes interdisciplinary work that explores the diversity of gender, sex, sexuality, embodiment, and identity in ways that have not been adequately addressed by feminist and queer scholarship.”

To highlight some of the great work in TSQ, here is a list of their most-read articles from 2020:

Transgender as a Humanitarian Category: The Case of Syrian Queer and Gender-Variant Refugees in Turkey
by Fadi Saleh

Trans Pornography: Mapping an Emerging Field
by Sophie Pezzutto and Lynn Comella

Before Trans Studies
by Cassius Adair, Cameron Awkward-Rich, and Amy Marvin

The Failures of SESTA/FOSTA: A Sex Worker Manifesto
by Valentina Mia

And if you’re new to field and looking for an introduction to the journal, these two articles are a great place to start:

Introduction: Trans* Studies Now
by Susan Stryker

We Got Issues: Toward a Black Trans*/Studies
by Treva Ellison; Kai M. Green; Matt Richardson; C. Riley Snorton

For all these and more, visit Transgender studies quarterly journal online here.

Kel R. Karpinski is the Gender & Sexuality Studies librarian.
If you have research questions, you can email them at

Access to JSTOR Primary Source Collections for CUNY

Through June 30, 2021, CUNY will have access to 4 primary source JSTOR collections.

  • Global Plants: high-resolution type specimens and related materials in this growing database showcases hand-selected materials and reference works from contributors around the world.
  • Struggles for Freedom: Southern Africa: Chronicles the liberation of Southern Africa and the dismantling of the Apartheid regime.
  • World Heritage Sites: Africa: Vsual, contextual, and spatial objects in 30 sub-collections, providing documentation of African heritage sites.
  • 19th Century British Pamphlets: nearly 26,000 pamphlets covering the key political, social, technological, and environmental issues of the 19th century.

If you have any questions about these or other resources please contact Kimberly Abrams at

Digital Privacy and Online Education

Drawing of Tree with a surveillance camera
“mather nature” by khalid Albaih is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

This week, I gave a guest lecture on digital privacy for about 40 students enrolled in 2 sections of an interdisciplinary Sociology course called Society, Technology, and Self. I’ve done guest lectures for this course in the past, both in person and online, and I typically assign a couple of articles for students to read in advance and start with discussion about a specific surveillance context before I dive into a workshop on the larger surveillance landscape and concrete ways we can protect our privacy online.

This semester, I decided to focus on surveillance and online education. We read and discussed a letter from the ACLU to a small-town school superintendent about surveillance and loaned devices but the conversation quickly got very personal and very meta. “I’m using a loaned device from CUNY right now. LOL,” one student posted in the chat and another responded ominously in all caps, “THEY ARE WATCHING.” Another student talked about her son’s experience in the NYC elementary schools and said that while she appreciated getting access to a loaned tablet, the school system’s use of 3rd party apps, which requires students to login and supply a lot of personal information to create accounts made her uncomfortable. 

We spent a lot of time discussing what I started calling “the 3rd party problem” and trying to unpack the layers of corporate surveillance that have seeped into public education spaces. Only one student, who had transferred to City Tech from another school, had been required to use an online proctoring platform for a test but many students cited commercial devices they had experience with like Google Nest and Alexa as similarly invasive. The difference is whether or not you have a choice, one student observed. And whether that choice is actually a choice. 

As we moved into a more general discussion about corporate surveillance in online environments and the way that our data–everything from geolocation tags and IP addresses to our faces–can be used without our consent, one student wrote in the chat: “this is terrifying.” I took that comment as a cue to move on to tools we can use–alternative browsers and plugins that disable ad-trackers and encrypted messaging apps like Signal– to protect our privacy. We also talked about the importance of advocacy and education as tools to not only protect ourselves, but to protect others as more of us work and live and learn online. I ended the session by discussing recent consumer privacy legislation in the European Union and in California that has started to, at the very least, expose some of the routine surveillance we’re subject to every time we visit a website. 

While ubiquitous digital surveillance online and the increasing use of commercial 3rd party applications in online education spaces is terrifying, I have been encouraged that more students and teachers and parents and administrators seem to be thinking and talking about privacy. During a time when many families are dealing with trauma and financial instability, more educators seem to be considering whether inflexible and expensive 3rd party technologies that are potentially causing harm and increasing anxiety, are worth the cost. As we work to create spaces for learning online that center values like care and mutual respect, a critical consideration of student privacy needs might be increasingly part of the equation.  

Digital Privacy at the City Tech Library

The City Tech Library has been conducting a privacy audit on what information about patrons are collected and how we can minimize that data to be leaked. This includes examining who has access to identifiable information. Since the library is physically inaccessible, this has given library IT staff the time to review what data is collected from our users. The library is creating policies to determine how long we keep user data and why we are keeping it in the first place. For example, library web forms give users the option to submit their names or contact information. This helps protect the users and also it prevents that information to be accessible by others. 

The library has also suspended the use of Google Analytics to track users visiting the library website and utilizes Matomo. Matomo is an open-source web analytics tool that gathers user web data. This data is used to improve the library website through user statistics. What makes Matomo a more privacy aligned tool is that the data collected is solely on the library’s web server. Google Analytics, on the other hand, collects this data to create customized advertising. 

By minimizing the collection of user data, the library is attempting to avoid surveilling users. The data collected from surveilling users can lead to inaccurate assumptions. Technology can provide insight into how people behave, yet it can be used for voluntary and involuntary nefarious purposes. This is evident in numerous news articles regarding bias in policing due to facial recognition or the use of search engine algorithms that enforce existing structures of white supremacy.  Libraries take privacy seriously, with librarians making great efforts in protecting users’ freedom of inquiry and academic curiosity. 

Learn More about Digital Privacy in Libraries and Education Environments

City Tech Library’s Privacy Guide

CUNY Libraries Privacy Statement

American Library Association: Choose Privacy Everyday

Kelley, J. (Sept. 2020). Students are pushing back against proctoring surveillance apps. Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Warner, J. (Nov. 2020). A teach-in against surveillance. Inside Higher Ed.

Watter, A. (Nov. 2020). What happens when ed tech forgets? Hack Education.

Stommel, J. (June 2020). Designing for care.

Davidson, C. (May 2020). The single most essential requirement in designing fall online courses.

Honors Scholars Program Graduate School Fair Zoom Links

The following is a list of graduate schools that will host their own Zoom info session on December 3rd, 2020 from 4PM-5PM. Feel free to attend one of the listed graduate school’s info session to learn more about their school and programs. If a Zoom link does not work, please try to join via the Meeting ID in Zoom. There is also a downloadable version of this flyer.

FYI, the library has a guide to help you research graduate schools.
Graduate School NameProgram(s)Zoom Link
Baruch College Marxe School of Public and International AffairsMPA, Executive MPA, Master of International Affairs and Masters of Higher Ed Administration wd=NisvdkRVWVBGN2VNUlUyOG1Ed0dMQT09 (Meeting ID: 813 6423 3590 Passcode: Marxe)
Binghamton University, SUNYComputer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and more (Meeting ID: 985 8338 1604)
Brooklyn College, CUNYAccounting, Adolescence Science Education, Science and Environmental Education, and more j/92299673470?pwd=SllDVFd4VlA2TnN- 4RDV3VVJ3b2lldz09
(Meeting ID: 922 9967 3470 Passcode: 447058)
The City College of New York (CCNY), CUNYSustainability in the Urban Environment (Meeting ID: 964 0174 9171)
CCNY, CUNYBranding and Integrated Communications (BIC)
CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture, CUNYMaster of Architecture, Master of Landscape
Architecture and Master of Urban Planning (Urban Design)
Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
(Meeting ID: 978 8472 3290 Passcode: CUNY)
The Graduate Center, CUNY30 Ph.D. programs and 15 master’s programs wd=bSt1cFllYWhTZHdDYmVMdUthL1BRQT09 (Meeting ID: 927 1678 4809 Passcode: 404895)
City University of Graduate StudiesArchitecture, Business, Communication, Education, Humanities, and more zgoG9TXjkEX7WJAw-_MkfBBnlo0
CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy jHd0g5KZL   c-jMe655WVUobI
CUNY School of Labor and Urban StudiesMA in Labor Studies, MA in Urban Studies, Advanced Certificates in Community Leadership, and more wd=QTBtckpnem5zWDQxRVZLbWhVVUJVQT09 (Meeting ID: 833 6655 3553 Passcode: 752832)
CUNY School of Professional StudiesPsychology, Data Science, Business Management and Leadership, and more (Webinar ID: 953 4739 1124)
Hunter College School of Education, CUNYTeacher Education, Counseling and Applied Behavior Analysis
(Meeting ID: 914 8690 9940)
John Jay College, CUNYCriminal Justice, Forensic Psychology, MPA, Security, Emergency Management, and more wd=eXZYMnYvdnlnNTR6elZuUjNiRmxNdz09 (Meeting ID: 828 9760 7677 Passcode: John Jay)
Lehman College, CUNYComputer Science, Geographic Information Systems, Mathematics Instruction, and more 0tc-irpzwoH9CFmThvZFYk_8BXNRRVAO1x
Marist CollegeMBA, MS in Information Systems, and more tZAkdu-orTwpEtEgcJyfbLBnZNzSRFcyPAUY
New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)All STEM Graduate Programs
(Meeting ID: 985 8610 7922 Passcode: NJIT2021)
New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)Communication Arts, Digital Art & Design, UX/UI Design and Development, and more
(Meeting ID: 998 8749 2547 Passcode: 718198)
New York University (NYU)Programs in Educational Communications and Technology at NYU Steinhardt
NYU Game CenterMFA in Game Design
St. John’s UniversityMasters of Science in Integrated Advertising Communications ck5wZzExd0dkUjNLL2VaQT09
(Passcode: Stjohns)
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences UniversityMedical Informatics

(Meeting ID: 190 342 293 Passcode: 863454)
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences UniversityMidwifery (School of Health Professions)

(Meeting ID: 948 0789 5191 Passcode: 765160)
SUNY Downstate Health Sciences UniversityPhysical Therapy

(Meeting ID: 933 3262 0805 Passcode: 352992)
SUNY New PaltzAll Programs

(Meeting ID: 919 4978 7500 Passcode: SUNYNP)

Donate to the City Tech Library!

CUNY’s Giving Tuesday campaign has begun, and we in the Library are delighted to participate in this year’s fundraising efforts! Visit (and share) our #CUNYTUESDAY page and donate to help us support student success at City Tech. This year our goals include:

–    Connect more effectively to students both online and in-person with programming and library outreach initiatives including equipment and hosting for podcasting ($400) and new whiteboards ($350).

–    Redesign the library’s modular learning space and purchase new furniture to better accommodate students’ active learning and group work and better facilitate best practices in public health for classrooms ($15,000).

The Ursula C. Schwerin Library supports all members of the City Tech community through our collections, services, and programs. We help students, faculty, and staff build critical research skills and connect with knowledge in their disciplines. The library offers access to academic resources, information technology, and study space. Our collections provide our students with opportunities for intellectual exploration, and library faculty empower students to find and critically evaluate information. Find more information at