COLTS NECK – Mary Ann Miano believes in combining a good number of her talents and hobbies and taking advantage of all the resources she has at hand.

The result is two delightful columns in every issue of the Colts Neck Journal, a free distribution magazine in western Monmouth County, and an opportunity for readers to try their hand at both simple and exotic menus culled from the Catherine Henning Cook Book Collection which is the pride of the township.

The Holmdel resident and mother of two grown sons is also the senior library assistant at the Colts Neck Branch of the Monmouth County Library. As such, she is intimately familiar with, and appreciative of, the cookbook collection that was willed to the Library after the death of Colts Neck resident Catherine Henning, a former resident who traveled extensively and sought out cook and recipe books from all the corners of the earth.

Now in the downstairs storeroom at the library, the books are brought up for display and use throughout the year and are also always available for loan from any of the other branches or the Headquarters library in Manalapan by request. As one of her duties, Miano coordinates displays at the Colts Neck branch, so she incorporates books from this special collection that expand the particular ongoing subjects or activities. For instance, during August, when a Bread Baking Class by blue ribbon winner Flora Higgins was one of the morning activities in the lower level kitchen, Miano’s book display upstairs included dozens of titles from the Catherine Henning collection containing recipes for everything from bread and muffins to yeast rolls and biscuits.

Then, in her free time, the avid reader/writer writes her two columns for The Journal, one culling information from the Catherine Henning collection, the other enabling her to indulge in research which she also enjoys.

For Books for Cooks, Miano selects a recipe from the collection, then goes into some interesting facts about the book she is referencing, perhaps something about the author, perhaps some of the other intriguing characteristics about the book itself. She said she makes her selections of which books and recipes to write about depending on a number of criteria…the season, holidays, or  an event that might be going on that would correlate with a particular recipe. She concludes it with the book and author’s name, the date it was printed and even the page from which she took the recipe.

“Like everyone else, I love food!” the librarian said. “I’m not an emotional, depressed or bored eater; I’m not an eat-in-front-of the television eater.  I love food because of the fond memories it brings of my mother and grandmother and their many hours in the kitchen.  I love food because it gathers my family around the table during special events.  I love food because the aroma of something simmering on the stove or baking in the oven means “home” to me.  I love food because it is through food that I show the people I care about that I love them.”  

Still for this very studious woman, it’s even more than that. “I also love food because I know that good nutrition supplies our bodies with the energy we need to get through our day.  I can’t explain why it excites me to read, for instance,  that a sweet potato is probably the healthiest vegetable you can eat or why  I can’t wait to try millet after learning it is the oldest grain on earth.  I just find it fascinating. To me, food is the great amalgamator of cultures and people.  It is truly what we all have in common.”

For  the Let’s Dish page, a column Miano has been writing for the magazine for the past decade, the author writes even more about food. “Sometimes it’s exotic, sometimes it’s a more ordinary dish,” she explains quietly, “but it is always something that could be made in anyone’s kitchen. If you’re looking for gourmet or something very difficult, you won’t find it here.”

The column always includes the history of whatever her recipe of the month is, along with the dietary information and health benefits.

Following a successful career in the business world upon graduation from the Berkeley Business School in Manhattan, Miano earned a second degree in humanities with a major in English. Now, content to spend time with her husband, Joe, and sons, Joey and Mike, who lives at home, the librarian believes she’s got the best of all worlds with a rewarding position at the library, an ability to pursue an avocation she loves, and the ability to combine both her vocation and her avocation while still enjoying the beauty and tranquility of living life in Monmouth County.