When Katie Workman's teen-aged son announced late one evening that his school had a bake sale the following day, she didn't panic. She directed him to page 328 in her book, "The Mom 100 Cookbook."
He might have peppered his mom with a dozen questions as he got out bowls and looked for the cocoa powder, but he made the brownies. "Now I feel my job is not to make the brownies but to show him how to make the brownies," Workman said.
Workman, of New York, will bring her love of cooking amid the challenges of fickle children's tastes, to the Foundation for the Baltimore County Public Library's fundraiser, the Taste of the Town, Saturday, May 9, at the Towson Library. As the honorary host, she will speak and do a cooking demonstration.
Tickets are still available for the fourth annual Taste of the Town. The benefit comes to the Towson Library after three years in Perry Hall. In addition to Workman's appearance, there will be food and drink provided by Towson-area restaurants and Canton-based Full Tilt Brewing, a silent auction, jazz by the Community College of Baltimore County, seated massage by David and Missy Hannibal and putt-putt golf presented by Baltimore County Golf.
Workman had been a cookbook editor and food writer before she wrote her book. She aimed "The Mom 100" at busy moms and picky children with recipes for everything from breakfast to bake sales. She included variations – she labels them "Fork in the Road" — to accommodate children's preferences without turning mom into a short-order cook.
She knows what she's talking about. Workman has tested all the recipes on her own two boys, ages 15 and 12. "My kids love every recipe in the book," she said.
And that includes fish recipes in Chapter 9, where she includes her mantra, "Just eat the damn fish." Her boys eat her fish now — but they didn't always. Not every kid is going to like every recipe. "You have to keep at it," she said. "Your job is to just put food on the table and let the chips fall where they may."
Since Workman's cookbook was published in 2012, some 285,000 copies have been sold. Because she's accessible through Twitter, Facebook and her blog, she's also received lots of comments from individual readers. And they keep on coming even three years after publication.
"I hear a few times a week," she said. Readers let her know their favorite recipes, including the tortilla casserole and the cheese beef casserole. And, she said, she's thrilled when she gets a message "saying the book has changed the way they feel about cooking."
Her success has led to a second book, "Dinner Solved," coming out in August. Its format is similar to Workman's "Mom 100," with 100 recipes designed for family meals, including the "Fork in the Road" variations. "The whole book is geared to flexible recipes that are easy on the cook," she said.
Workman acknowledges today's cooks often turn to the Internet rather than a cookbook for a recipe. She, in fact, helped build the recipe website Cookster, spending 2 1/2 years as its editor and chief. Workman also created themom100.com blog to coincide with the launch of her book.
Yet she's a firm believer in published recipe collections.
"There are people who will always like to hold something in their hands," Workman said. She said cooks often resort to recipe websites, including Cookstr.com, which Workman helped found. But cookbook recipes have been tested, copy-edited and placed in a book with good typography and beautiful photographs. "Books — and cookbooks and lifestyle books in particular — are wonderful gifts," she said. "They become something you want to share."
A good cookbook may have splotches, dog-eared pages, and sticky spots, Workman said. "People who love their cookbooks like to see their books have been used."
A cooking fan since childhood, she hopes readers can relax and master a couple of favorite recipes. "One your kids love something, there's nothing better," she said.
The Taste of the Town will also feature dishes presented by local restaurants, from Charles Village Pub to Fazzini's Taverna.Restaurateurs are motivated by a desire to help the community as well as put some of their food on the plates of new patrons.
Jason Hisley, owner of La Cakerie who will bring his signature cupcakes and a mini dessert bar, said he supports the library's many activities for families. "I just think that's really important for the future generation," he said. He remembers reading with his parents. "It developed the bond I have with my parents," he said.
"Any time we can be out in the community is great," said Dave Tart, marketing director for the Charles Village Pub Towson. He explained that participation is a way to give back to the community that has supported the business.
"It's a ton of exposure," he said. "Maybe some of the [diners] haven't ever turned down Pennsylvania Avenue and found us yet."
Fazzini's, which has been in its York Road location for a year, will serve lasagna and mini cannoli, according to owner Ari Brownstein. They are participating "to first of all help the library," he said. "Also there's some selfish motivation: to let people see who we are and taste some of our food."
Not everything is about food. A jazz ensemble from the Community College of Baltimore County will entertain. Attendees can get a seated massage or try their hand at putt-putt golf.
A big part of the evening is the silent auction that will feature everything from autographed books to art and jewelry by local artists.
Diamond Comics has donated books for the silent auction every year, according to Josh McCready, spokesman for the foundation.
"We're always happy to support literacy," said Sammy Cohen, of the Timonium-based comics distributor, who said their donations come from Diamond's book distribution division. "We always do what we can for libraries."
County Councilman David Marks, a library foundation member, has added his own auction item. He will take the winning bidder to lunch in Towson followed by a tour of the historic County Courthouse as well as the new chambers.
Ultimately, the benefit is for young readers. "It's a fantastic event," Marks said. "It does help us out in county government by raising private money for the library."
The benefit has raised funds for programs that encourage young readers, including the Storyville program in Rosedale and Woodlawn and the Summer Reading Club.
Taste of the Town is scheduled for 7-11 p.m. Saturday, May 9. For details or tickets, go to http://www.foundationforbcpl.org or stop at any Baltimore County Public Library branch.