Posts Tagged ‘the green arcade’

Find Food Books at Friendly Independent Book Stores

August 9, 2009

Photo: Courtesy of Omnivore Books on Food

Call me old fashioned: I just don’t see myself curling up any time soon with a Kindle. After two beloved bookstores in my neighborhood — Berkeley, a legendary university town no less —  closed up shop this year (Cody’s & Black Oak) I swore off Amazon forever.

So, today, in time perhaps for your vacation reading, a shout out for the independent book store.

Recently, I ‘ve had the pleasure of puttering around Omnivore Books on Food in my former neighborhood in San Francisco’s Noe Valley. The one-time butcher shop is chock full of tempting cookbooks, new, old, rare, and out-of-print. Today, the store hosts Novella Carpenter, discussing Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. I’ve packed this much-lauded memoir to read on a pending trip — when I’m not floating down the Russian River. (So no posts, folks, while I take some time with my son and some friends to explore the real world.)

A couple of weeks ago I ventured inside another SF gem, The Green Arcade, which specializes in eco-conscious works, and includes books on urban homesteading, manifestos on eating well, all manner of writings about the slow food movement, and cookbooks on niche subjects such as gluten-free foods.

Back in my hometown, Mrs. Dalloway’s stocks a nicely curated collection of food and gardening tomes, and hosts events like the recent reading by chef Deborah Madison and her artist husband Patrick McFarlin, who talked about what people eat when they eat alone. And Book Passage, both in Corte Madera and the San Francisco Ferry Building, frequently hosts “cooks with books” events. Listening to Molly Wizenberg read from A Homemade Life at one such evening inspired me to finally launch Lettuce Eat Kale a few short months ago.

I do realize that in these economically uncertain times buying new books — hardbacks no less — is a luxury many can’t afford. It’s one of my few, if infrequent, indulgences. I’ve also had great success with bargain finds at the three Pegasus & Pendragon locations in the East Bay. For some reason I get terrific Aussie cookbooks there by the likes of Donna Hay and Bill Granger for a fraction of the price I’d pay in Australia. It’s also a good spot for used paperback food memoirs. Okay, despite the recent closures we’re spoiled rotten for bookstores in the Bay Area. How about your hometown?

I do my bit to share the wealth. I’m hosting a monthly food book giveaway on this very blog. I no longer believe in hanging on to works of fiction I’ve loved just so they can gather dust in my bookshelves. So I pass them on to friends who I think will enjoy them as much as I have. My son and his buddies have started doing something similar, which makes me very happy.

So, folks, is the dead-tree read well on the road to obsolescence or do you think it will survive? is there still a place for shops peddling inked paper in the modern world? Hope springs eternal here: Just this week the news that indie Books Inc. will open not far from the space formerly occupied by Cody’s. Happy summer reading.

Eat Food, Cook Food, and Don’t Forget the Salt

July 29, 2009

Perhaps the best thing about Cook Food: a manualfesto for easy, healthy, local eating is that it’s a slim little volume.

That’s not some snarky reviewer comment. Writer Lisa Jervis aims to demystify how to eat well and cook simple food by keeping her book brief. She includes 20 recipes of the beans, greens, grains, tofu, and tempeh variety. Well seasoned, as Jervis advocates, these ingredients can form the basis of a decent recipe repertoire for the eco-conscious (both environmental and financial).

This guide may hit a chord with people interested in food politics who don’t have a clue about what to cook in the kitchen and don’t need pretty pictures to motivate them to make a meal. (This is not your typical photo-driven cookbook.)

Folks inspired by Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and Stuffed & Starved author Raj Patel, whose book blurb adorns the back cover, come to mind. And Cook Food might also serve as a handy reference for college students, making the switch from dorm life to truly independent living, who need assistance figuring out essential equipment, pantry basics, and practical tips and techniques (note to self: ditch the lame-o rice cooker and get a jelly roll pan for roasting veggies to perfection.)

Regardless, if Jervis, who sports a cool beet tattoo, happens to be reading in your neighborhood do stop by. At The Green Arcade bookstore in San Francisco last Friday, it feels like I’ve entered the kitchen of a friend who could use a little help getting the dinner on.

More group discussion and less book reading, Jervis distractedly composes a farmers’ market salad for her audience to sample to support her thesis that preparing satisfying food is within everyone’s reach.

She fields questions while she chops. We learn she’s politically aware (conscious of her carbon footprint, locavore advocate, mostly vegan), and a bit of a renegade (a liberal user of oil and salt, she signs her book, salt early, salt often). She also confesses during her cooking demo that she’s confused an Asian melon for a lemon cucumber. It doesn’t seem to faze her. There’s nothing slick going on here, which leaves you feeling comfortable that you, too, can cook food.

In this era of celebrity chefs and network cooking shows, it’s easy to feel intimidated by food.

Jervis serves as a reminder that we don’t need to be.