Two weeks ago, Omnivore Books on Food quietly opened its doors in Noe Valley. When I found out about it from a friend of mine who is much hipper than I am, I nearly wet myself with joy. I have been known to lose myself in used bookstores for hours, but I have never been to one dealing exclusively in cookbooks.
Housed, appropriately enough, in a former butcher shop, Omnivore is the dream child of Celia Sack, an antiquarian book dealer with a special passion for cookbooks. Even her name sounds as though it came straight from a novel. Celia Sack. It is, to me, a name that should be attached to a book store.
Omnivore’s fare reaches beyond new, antiquarian, and collectible cookbooks. As its website states, “Omnivore connects the past to the present by offering centuries of knowledge on growing, raising, and cooking food.” There are books on animal husbandry, nut growing, even a whole shelf devoted to organic farming– from the 1940’s and 1950’s. It’s a fascinating browse– a kind of hog heaven for book lovers.
Among my favorite curiosities on the store were a collection of miniature liqueur bottles once owned by Hal B. Wallis, Oscar-winning producer of a little-known film entitled Casablanca. They were rescued by Sack (a friend of the family) when Wallis’ gold-digging last wife was stealing him, well, blind, as his eyesight began to fail.
Omnivore will soon be hosting book-related events. In December, the store will host such guests as Cindy Mushet, author of The Art and Soul of Baking, and Clark Wolf, author of American Cheeses. To find out about more events, visit Omnivore’s event calendar online. Or, hell, go into the store and pick one up yourself.
In an era where books are gradually losing ground to the likes of the Internet and Kindle, and in a global economy that is causing people to curtail their expenditures, Omnivore’s debut is a brave one. But a necessary one, I think. There is a certain comfort in reading about food, certainly, but that comfort is often served cold when reading about it on a computer screen. It cannot compare to the heft of a good book in one’s hands, the smell of its musty pages, or the knowledge that it has been loved and used and read by others. Beyond what’s written in its pages, there is a story behind every book. And I think Celia and Omnivore understand that. Perfectly.
Omnivore is located at:
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 94131