Food

The Owner of Bold Fork Books Is a Cookbook Obsessive. Here Are Her Favorites.

You'll find Julia Turshen—and Julia Child—on Clementine Thomas's personal shelf.

Clementine Thomas. Photograph courtesy of Bold Fork Books.

Washington is an amazing, diverse food city—so it’s only fitting we have Bold Fork Books (3064 Mount Pleasant St., NW), a food-centric bookstore run by two hospitality veterans. DC native Clementine Thomas, who co-owns the sweet Mount Pleasant shop with husband Sam Vasfi, chatted with us about her favorite cookbooks.

What was the first cookbook that changed your life? 

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. My father was French. My parents didn’t know her, but they were on a first name basis with her—she was always known as Julia. I was a picky eater growing up. It cracked open this world that food is something more than what you put in your mouth.

What cookbooks do you turn to most often?

Books that are practical and accessible and not overly fussy. I really love Ruffage 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 rutabaga.

What cookbook are you most looking forward to testing out?  

The Red Boat Fish Sauce Cookbook. I’m super excited to dig into it. It looks so fun and the recipes are so appealing. 

What are the best cookbooks you encountered last year? 

We haven’t been able to keep The Tucci Cookbook in stock. Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. I still can’t get over the fact we got to do that as our first author event here. Black Food [Stories, Art, and Recipes] by Bryant Terry. Brandon Jew’s Mister Jiu’s in China Town is also extraordinary.

What are some releases you’re looking forward to in 2022? 

[Local author] Michael Twitty has a new book coming out in August [Kosher Soul]. There’s a slew of celebrity—and just big—books coming out soon. Melissa Clark has a new one, Dinner in One. We’ve had a lot of people in the shop asking about one pan, one dish meals, so I feel like it it’ll be a hit. 

You have a fun kid’s section. Favorites there?

The Silver Spoon for Children always cracks me up. They’re classic Italian dishes, geared towards parents cooking for infants, but all the recipes are a little more complicated than what you’d expect (I’d eat them!). Not a cookbook, but Strega Nona is my all-time favorite. And the series Big Cities, Little Foodies— they’re board books set in Hong Kong or Tokyo and just the cutest.

What’s your favorite cookbook to recommend to a new home cook? 

Simply Julia by Julia Turshen. She’s somehow able to meet people where they are. It appeals to people on every level, and there’s something so personal about it. It’s one of my favorite go-tos for people who are trying to get more comfortable riffing. 

What kinds of books do people ask for, and what trends are you seeing?

There’s less and less of an appetite for those fancy restaurant cookbooks. It’s veggie heavy. There’s a new book called Weekday Vegetarian that we can’t keep in stock. Also easy, workhorse, everyday books. I love Dinner by Melissa Clark. She’s just a great recipe developer and you always know that her recipes will be reliable, which counts.  

You can invite three food or cookbook writers to dinner, living or dead. Who’s coming, and what would you make?

That’s really tough!  I’ll say Edna Lewis, Julia Child, and Cheryl Day [Treasury of Southern Baking]. She was such a wonderful guest here, I could just spend days and days listening to her. We would get 2 Amys pizza and it would be great, as always. 

This article appears in the February 2022 issue of Washingtonian.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

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