I was a bit embarrassed. The owner of Books for Cooks was looking at me, and the iPhone in my hand, with a puzzled look on his face. He had caught me taking a panorama shot of his bookshelves. Who does that?
Well, me. I love books, and old cluttered bookshops, and was particularly a fan of Books for Cooks because who doesn’t love a bit of good food writing? Based in Singapore, my relationship with them to-date was via their website, so when I came to Melbourne, I was very excited to pop into the shop and put a face to the name.
In an attempt to save my pride, I blurted out, “Can you point me to the Coffee section?” This, as it turns out, was a good move, as Tim knows his subject well. After quickly assessing my level of interest (“I’ve just done a four-hour tour of Melbourne cafes”), he layered in like a human Dewey Decimal System (remember that, kids?) on The Barista Bible by Christine Cottrell, a “scholarly approach to making the perfect espresso.” This was the first to go on my book pile that afternoon. “And if you like coffee history, you must read God In A Cup. It is out of print but I can put it on order for you.” Why, yes please.
Next to the Coffee section, logically, was Obscure Gastronomy Magazines. I couldn’t get hold of Lucky Peach back home without paying double the price for shipping, so all three available volumes went on the pile. “Have you heard of Repast?” Tim asked. “This couple documented their trip to Burgundy, Piedmont, San Sebastian. It’s their first edition.” On to the pile.
At this point, Tim must’ve decided I was nothing more than an obsessive reader / eater, so he left me alone to browse. I took the opportunity to purchase one celebrity book (Matt Preston’s Cravat-A-Licious), a couple of food travel memoirs, and momentarily considered Shannon Bennett’s diary of Provence, then decided to close my tab. Tim chuckled, “If I manage to keep you here for another 10 minutes, I can probably get you to buy one more thing.”
As Tim rang up my purchases, he recommended another new magazine, this one Scandinavian, with the strapline “food insanity brilliance & love.” Its cover featured Chef Magnus Nilsson wearing an Iron Maiden shirt and fur coat. “OK,” I said. The magazine was called Fool.