Although I can’t say I haven’t succumbed to the Amazon juggernaut on a few (too many) occasions, my heart belongs to small, independent bookstores. Nothing compares to meandering through hand-picked books old and new, ogling their lush photographs or unique typography, feeling their heft in your hand, leafing their crisp and stiff or dog-eared and supple pages, inhaling the sharp scent of fresh ink or the musty one of antique cloth, discovering the treasure that was meant to go home with you that day.
Last week I visited a new store that became a fast favorite: Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco. It is, to my knowledge, the only culinary bookstore in the Bay Area, and it features both new and vintage books. If you like to read about growing, foraging, cooking, or eating food, or if you’re beguiled by culinary history or literature, the store will leave your appetite well-satisfied.
Of course I concentrated on the baking section, and selected several imported titles: The Baker by Leanne Kitchen (Australia); Pizza Modo Mio by John Lanzafame (Australia); River Cottage Handbook No. 3: Bread by Daniel Stevens (UK); and Going with the Grain: Travels for the Love of Bread by Susan Seligson. In the food history section I found Bread: A Slice of History by John Marchant, Bryan Reuben, and Joan Alcock (UK), and in the foraging section, a vintage copy of Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop, a classic from my childhood.
As I browsed in the bright, warm space, I enjoyed chatting with proprietor Celia Sack, who was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. Try getting that from Amazon.
If we don’t support bookstores like this, there won’t be bookstore like this. So go already.
Omnivore Books on Food
3885a Cesar Chavez Street (at Church)
I’m not sure this is really fair Susan … I can’t imagine a better way to spend a day … well maybe if you could bake bread while browsing as it rose and then baked.
Oh and I guess it would be even better if you could have a few friends with you.
Sounds like an amazing place.
San Francisco is on my list of places I’d like to visit. If I ever get there, I’ll head to that bookstore for sure! Enjoy your new books!
Oh yay! I’m headed to San Francisco in 3 (!) weeks (!) and definitely need to stop by there. Too cool!
If I’m ever in SF, I will be sure to stop by there! I looove foraging for good books — especially food related ones 🙂
What a wonderful shop… just wished I lived closer by 😉
I don’t see many in NY sad to say!!! BN and Amazon are about it, save kitchen arts and letters which is nice but so pricey!!!
Worlds changing, maybe with the down turn or recession will go back to mom and pop!? Sure hope so!
I love this kind of bookstores, too. 🙂 We have a nice one here in cologne, but sadly for me, the bread baking section is very small 🙁
But cookbooks -So much, so different ones. I can never leave without buying some 🙂
Wow, Susan! One more wonderful thing to do on weekends between classes at SFBI… Thank you, I am adding it to the list this minute.
Jeremy, there is a cookbook store in NYC! Check out this link: http://www.kitchenartsandletters.com. It’s on Lexington Avenue, maybe in the upper 80’s or 90’s…
Yeah I mentioned it, and I also used to get second hand books at Argosy on 59th, I picked up a great book on Provencale cooking, all my chefs wanted to steal it!!!
Provençal cooking! So delicious… There is something magical about second hand bookstores as you never know what kind of a miracle is going to fall into your hands. I am like Susan, I go straight to bread baking books first, then I go to cookbooks. I am running out of shelf space but recipes are really not easy to thumb through on a Kindle…
I have a terrible ‘amazon’ habit but nothing compares to a leisurely time in a bookshop leafing through the ‘goodies’, both food related and otherwise.
Bart Van Mulders says
Interesting, one of the things I dream of is to travel the west coast of the States. SF is one of the places I would dream to visit.
I love vintage books! What I really like is to see how some recipes from the past have evolved into the recipes they are today. Last week I made a cheese cake that had a very simple filling, while the recipe I found in the 2008 edition of the same book was much more complicated. I think this is interesting. The cheese cake (made with a recipe from 1975) was simple but very delicious!
Vintage books are cool!