The locals know Watchung Booksellers as the community bookstore with a great selection of the latest releases and the best children’s section around, all without the door dings and parking lot scrapes associated with the big box stores. Whispers among the local foodie community refer to the Watchung Plaza shop as a Librairie Gourmande, and with good reason, but today the whispers are being replaced with shouts. WATCHUNG BOOKSELLERS IS COOKING WITH GAS!
To understand the cookbook sections, yes, sections, one must first understand a bit about what make this store so special. Watchung Books is locally owned and staffed by a team whose passion for the written word is a motivating force above all others. These people know books, all books. Being Montclair, home to many in the publishing community, it comes as no surprise that the staff is well versed in literature and high-brow prose. Conversations take on a quality like that of a museum docent - informative, questioning, and inspiring. They understand the customers’ curiosity about a subject and encourage that curiosity, it’s almost like being in the presence of a great sports coach who wants you to be your best and discover more.
That being said, being in the presence of such wordies, I was, at first a little intimidated to admit that I was on a quest for cookbooks. With customers in the shop dropping names like Dervish, Gantos, Hiaasen, and Guidice (must be one of the newer poets), I felt my quest was a little pedestrian. After all, the only really interesting words in the culinary vocabulary are spatchcock and macerate. Can gluten free biscuits ever be elevated to the heights of Voltaire? I know they can, and it took nary a moment for me to realize that the staff at Watchung Booksellers thought so too! Shortly after starting the browse I came to the realization that this is the headquarters for the BEST GIFTS EVER!
A big surprise is the variety of vegan cookbooks, with treats and baking having a noticeable presence. Vegan recipes don’t include any animal products, this is especially helpful for those among us who have friends and relatives who have either egg or dairy food allergies. There’s still time to pick up a vegan baking book, hit the supermarket, and present the book with vegan Christmas cookies for a relative who normally would have forgone this simple pleasure of the season.
Of course the offerings at Watchung Booksellers are about more than vegan. The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook is here. (word on the street is that it’s Hot From The Kettle’s favorite cookbook of 2012, but you’ll have to wait for that list to come out this week to confirm that). Ina Garten is here, as is Giada, and Stanley Tucci’s cookbook is such a treat that I am sure most copies are never going to make it to their intended recipient.
Going international? In almost every case there are several titles in each regional or international style of cooking. Instead of just one “Indian” book the offerings range from the simple to more complex and authentic. It is such a foodie wonderland that Margot and Team Watchung Booksellers have gotten used to me being there for hours deciding which books I want on each visit. (I usually go home with many more than I should, and on occasion have had Wells Fargo call to verify unusual credit card activity!)
With all the meshegaas of the final stretch to Christmas there are some favorite titles that may be out of stock today, but don’t fret, the selection is so wide and varied that you’ll probably find something even better than your first choice!
Of course Watchung Booksellers offers the usual suspects: great novels, classic literature, and titles from local authors. And if books are not at the top of your families wish list (don’t be embarrassed, we all have family members who don’t like books and have yet to figure out that America’s Funniest Home Videos is the same 4 scenarios over and over again) the gift items are fantastic. I scored a Penguin Hot Water Bottle and an Einstein finger puppet. With power outages being Montclair’s hottest trend of 2012, why not be prepared for 2013 with some traditional table games like Backgammon or even a great puzzle?
Watchung Booksellers can be found online at http://watchungbooksellers.com/