The owner of Bold Fork Books is a cookbook obsessive. Here are his favorites.
Clementine Thomas. Photo courtesy of Bold Fork Books.
Washington is an amazing and diverse culinary city. It is therefore normal that we have Bold Fork Books (3064 Mount Pleasant Street, NW), a food-focused bookstore run by two hospitality veterans. DC native Clementine Thomas, who co-owns sweet boutique Mount Pleasant with husband Sam Vasfi, chatted with us about her favorite cookbooks.
What is the first cookbook that changed your life?
Master the art of French cuisine by Julia Child. My father was French. My parents didn’t know her, but they called each other by her first name – she was always known as Julia. I was a picky eater growing up. It opened up this world to the fact that food is more than what you put in your mouth.
What cookbooks do you turn to most often?
Practical and accessible books and not too picky. I really like Ruffing by Abra Berens. I joined a CSA this year—Moon Valley Farm, a woman-owned organic farm in Frederick—and it’s really helpful when you have tons of rutabagas.
Which cookbook are you most looking forward to trying?
the Red Boat Fish Sauce Recipe Book. I’m super excited to dig into it. It looks so fun and the recipes are so appealing.
What are the best cookbooks you’ve come across in the last year?
We couldn’t keep The Tucci cookbook in stock. Cheryl Day’s Southern Bakery Treasure. I still can’t get over the fact that we have to do this as our first author event here. black food [Stories, Art, and Recipes] by Bryant Terry. Brandon Jew Mr. Jiu in China Town is also extraordinary.
What releases are you looking forward to in 2022?
[Local author] Michael Twitty has a new book coming out in August [Kosher Soul]. There’s a slew of celebrities – and just big books – coming out soon. Melissa Clark has a new one, dinner in one. We had a lot of people in the store asking about one casserole, one dish, so I have a feeling it’s going to be a hit.
Got a fun section for kids. Favorites there?
The silver spoon for children always cracks me up. These are classic Italian dishes, adapted vis-à-vis parents cooking for infants, but all the recipes are a bit more complicated than you might expect (I would eat them!). Not a cookbook, but Strega Nona is my all time favorite. And the series Big cities, small Gourmands– they are hardbacks set in Hong Kong or Tokyo and just plain the cutest.
What’s your favorite cookbook to recommend to a new home cook?
Simply Julia by Julia Turshen. She’s kind of able to meet people where they are. It appeals to people on all levels, and there’s something so personal about it. It’s one of my favorites for people trying to get more comfortable riffing.
What types of books are people asking for and what trends are you seeing?
There’s less and less appetite for those fancy restaurant cookbooks. It’s heavy vegetarian. There’s a new book called Vegetarian weekdays that we cannot keep in stock. Also easy, workhorse, everyday books. I love Having dinner by Melissa Clark. She’s just a great recipe developer and you always know her recipes will be reliable, which matters.
You can invite three cooking or cooking writers to dinner, alive or dead. Who’s coming and what would you do?
It’s really difficult ! I will say Edna Lewis, Julia Child and Cheryl Day [Treasury of Southern Baking]. She was such a wonderful guest here that I could spend days and days listening to her. We would have 2 Amys pizzas and it would be awesome as always.
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of The Washingtonian.