Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks: The Little Shop With a Lot to Digest

Julia Child would be proud of the collection of cookbooks at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks
By Mitch Broder

Your festive entrée at home is most likely turkey, roast beef, or ham.

But it could be Rabbit Loaf, Pizza Pot Pie, or Coca-Cola Chicken.

There are 46 ways to make meatloaf in this cookbook that is found at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks.
Or not. Still it’s always good to have unconventional options, and you have them — at least for dinner — if you visit Bonnie Slotnick.

Bonnie’s bookshop is a treasure house of lost culinary possibilities, because it sells only out-of-print and antiquarian cookbooks. They include the books with the recipes for the above — respectively, “Meatloaf” by Sharon Moore, “Pot Pies” by Beatrice Ojakangas, and “The Kitchen Sink Cookbook” by Carolyn Wyman, which also has the recipe for Chocolate Cricket Torte.

The store has fruit-based books like “The Apple Cookbook,” nut-based books like “The Walnut Cookbook,” flavoring-based books like “The Vanilla Cookbook,” and condiment-based books like “The Plain & Fancy Mustard Cookbook.” It also has boat-based books like “The Cruising Cookbook,” dwelling-based books like “The Commune Cookbook,” restaurant-based books like “Lüchow’s German Cookbook,” and 99-cent-store-based books like “The 99¢ Only Stores Cookbook.”

It has every kind of cookbook you could imagine and many kinds you couldn’t, from the past couple of centuries, at reasonable cost. They are standing on shelves, lying on tables, and reposing on the carpet. They tempt you to grab an armful and repose on the carpet.

Search through the stacks at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks for a unique New York shopping experience.

Indeed, walk into Bonnie’s store and you feel like you’re in Bonnie’s apartment, not that I’ve been in her apartment, but I picture it as comparably cozy. The old books are accented by old kitchen utensils like The Acme Rotary Mincer and by old kitchen products like Betty Brite Bake Cups. I thought I might meet Betty Brite.

A close up look at some of the selections available at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks.I also thought I might meet Betty Crocker, though she, too, does not exist, but try telling that to many of Bonnie’s most determined customers. Betty’s books are the number-one seller, due to her apparent immortality and to her parent company’s referrals of lost-book-hunters to Bonnie.

It’s a shame, in a way, since there are so many real people to choose from. If you had a recipe and a name, you probably have a book for sale at Bonnie’s.

She has “The James Beard Cook Book,” “The Maurice Moore-Betty Cookbook,” “Helen Corbitt’s Cook-book,” and “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.” She has “The Emily Post Cook Book,” “Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook,” “The Dinah Shore Cook Book,” and “The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cook Book.”

Naturally, she has all these books because she’s not a fashion illustrator. She studied to be one at Parsons but was happier working at the Parsons library. She began collecting old books and found herself especially fond of old cookbooks. Meanwhile, she worked as a writer and editor at a company that published new cookbooks.

Get lost in the cookbooks you'll find at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks.She became a partner at the uptown store Kitchen Arts & Letters, where she was in charge of the out-of-print books. Eventually she was selling books on her own from a Greenwich Village office. Soon after, she opened her store. It’s twelve years old. It seems like forty.

This is the only store I know that has no negative comments online, unless you count the occasional complaint that it’s not open around the clock. Bonnie loves her books and wants to find each one a happy home. She has a Web site on which she encourages patrons to call rather than to e-mail.

She has filled all sorts of requests, from a single Betty Crocker to a complete collection of strictly first-edition James Beard. “But the really challenging request,” she says, “is the call from the person who doesn’t know the name of the book they’re looking for, but their mother had it and it was gray, but the cover fell off in 1962, and it has a recipe for cooking turtle, with the ingredients printed in red.”

When she finds it — as she will — she doesn’t require lavish praise. Instead, she may request just a small souvenir.

“If someone gets a long-lost book for their grandmother, I sometimes ask them to take a picture of her opening the package,” she says. “I have some of those hanging behind the desk.”

Step inside Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks for a uniquely New York experience.

Savor Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, 163 West 10th Street, near Seventh Avenue South, New York City.


  1. I'm there! Now! My only worry is whether or not another book would fit into this place but seriously, I don't care. Taking PG with me so that's where you'll find us. Thanks Mitch!

  2. I walked right past this shop and didn't go in
    Feel so dumb right now....must stop in next time in that area .....

  3. I'm on sensory a good way! Thanks for this. Can't wait to visit! It all looks so wonderful!