I was recently in Toronto, and as part of a little food crawl through Kensington Market, I had the good fortune to pop into The Good Egg, one of Canada’s handful of culinary bookstores. Though online shopping has hit brick and mortar bookstores very hard, there is nothing quite like browsing through shelf after shelf of culinary writing and cookbooks. It’s a dangerous hobby, though. It was at Good Egg that my amazing partner bought me the set of English translations of Oishinbo, a Japanese manga about food. And this time I left with Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. And there were so many great books, just begging to come home with me. Ok, I might have some sort of problem.
There are a number of excellent culinary bookstores sprinkled around North America. My favourites include Kitchen Arts & Letters in New York City, a temple to rare and enticing volumes that the owner might or might not let you purchase. Kitchen Witch Cookbooks in New Orleans has some excellent collection of creole and Southern books, and is nicely located near several places to have a decent sazerac after a vigorous browse. And of course in my home town of Vancouver there is the excellent Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks, which also has a good selection of events and readings. And in my spiritual home town of San Francisco, Omnivore Books on Food has a wonderful mix of new and used books including a really strong selection of food memoir. As a bonus they are located near some wonderful taquerias.
I still order a lot of books online, especially when I am on the hunt for something unusual, but I like to give brick and mortar stores some love when I can. There is something wonderful about browsing actual books. Even better when their food-loving neighbourhoods provide a snack or two as well!