For more than 32 years, Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe has been serving up books and bookish events to the city of Asheville, N.C., including food tastings for cookbook lovers in the community. “Malaprop’s has been offering cookbook author events for years, and we almost always have food samples,” bookseller Lauren Harr told PW. “It’s rare that we get an actual presentation on how the food is made, but samples are key. They are a big draw for people who may not have actually come for the event, but end up staying. The booksellers appreciate them also.”
Hit cookbook events for the store are usually a combination of play and culinary delights. “My favorite event was for the first Tupelo Honey [Cafe] cookbook,” said Harr. “Brian Sonoskus and Elizabeth Sims are both so fun and kind, and it was a blast to celebrate a staple of Asheville eating. They brought great food and we had wine. Brian talked about being in the kitchen as a boy and his Grandmother’s pierogies. We’ve also had great events with the Lee Brothers, Anthony Bourdain, and many others.”
The store hosts a cooking and cookbook section divided into general cooking, vegan/vegetarian, baking, special diets, and Southern cookbooks. Local chefs often pop in for signings and to meet their readers. “We used to love seeing Laurey Masterton before she passed away earlier this year. We see Nan Chase often,” noted Harr, who added that she was looking forward to local chef Katie Button’s forthcoming cookbook with Flatiron Books.
A few top-sellers at Malaprop’s include Tupelo Honey Café (Andrews McMeel, 2011) by Elizabeth Sims and Brian Sonoskus, and Masterton’s The Fresh Honey Cookbook (Storey, 2013). Harr’s personal favorite is A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe, reissued in 2009 by the Museum of New Mexico Press. “I used to live in New Mexico, and I can’t get food like that anywhere, so I’m forced to make it at home. Plus it has these drool-worthy photos of O’Keeffe’s home and garden.”
When it comes to trends, provincial themes and dietary intolerance–focused cookbooks are big for the store, and eye-catching titles like Ottolenghi’s Plenty wind up “in the bags of many customers,” Harr said. “We definitely have a lot of interest in local and regional cookbooks, and we get asked for vegan and gluten-free cookbooks much more often now than we did several years ago.”
As with many stores, there is one time of the year when niche cookbooks shine: “Everything moves more during the holidays!” said Harr. “We try to face out cookbooks with really mouth-watering covers, of course. People want to get something that they know the giftee will want or that will match their tastes or interests. This is when they pick up the $40 French baking book or the brand-new hardcover about cooking with mushrooms.”