Shopping the Cookbook Aisles of the Big Book Sale

Categories: Books
Jonathan Kauffman
The cookbook table at the Big Book Sale today at noon.

As Joe Eskenazi mentioned yesterday on the Snitch, SFoodie's sister blog, today is the first official day of the Friends of the Public Library's annual Big Book Sale at Fort Mason. This year brings more books and more days: It will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and on Sunday ― aka $1 day ― from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A devoted Friends of the Public Library sale-goer, both here and in Seattle, I hit the sale at lunch today, finding crowded parking lots and tables ringed by semi-obsessive book shoppers. (The truly obsessive showed up last night for the members-only preview sale.)

Who knew Holling and Shelly wrote a book?
Usually, if I go early enough in the sale, close scouring of the tables yields great finds ― well-known cookbooks published 5 to 15 years ago that may be out of readers' minds but belong in my collection. But whoever selects books for Book Bay, the Friends' main book store, must have a keen eye for the good stuff. Or else the collectors and dealers who attended the preview sale last night stripped the tables of anything of value.

Spotted: An old favorite for simple recipes.
What they left is the stuff you see in thrift stores: diet books, microwave books, magazine anthologies, 1970s French cookbooks (a couple of great ones, actually), friends-of-Oprah books, and tons of Junior League recipe compilations, all priced from $2 to $5 until Sunday. Anyone considering buying the Tiny Thai Cookbook for a friend should admit that this is its eventual destination.

Pretty, but not a book I'd consult.
Nevertheless, I managed to spend almost $30 to flesh out my shelves. Among the haul were one of the cookbooks on my wish list (Grace Young's Breath of a Wok); minor classics from Marion Cunningham, John Mariani, and Maida Heatter; Victoria Wise's fascinating 1986 American Charcuterie; and a Chinese food-term dictionary. The organizers say they'll be freshening up the stock as the sale goes on, which could cause new treasures to emerge. In fact, in the boxes below the table I spotted a Paula Wolfert book in pristine condition.

I already own a copy, so I left it for you to find. Good luck.


Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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