A Carefully Curated Collection of Cookbooks

Deli Book Buyer Darrell’s Cooked From All Our Books

If your visits to the Deli involve a single-minded straight shot up the stairs to order your sandwich, we invite you to slow it down a notch. Leisurely stroll up the ramp and take time to stop and smell the cookbooks (fellow book lovers, you’re with us on #newbooksmell, right?!) or flip through them (or both). And the extra fun thing about our selection? It’s always changing, so you never know what you’ll spot on the shelf.

Take a Look, It’s in a Cookbook

Our cookbook collection is curated by Darrell Jackson, Book Buyer and Specialty Foods staffer. Darrell joined the Deli in 2014, and is a self-described Mr. Do It All, ever-curious home baker, and lifelong bookworm. As a kid, his mom’s fancy bound Time Life volume and her more accessible Betty Crocker Cookbook with the tabs set him off on his fascination with cookbooks. Even before taking the reins in the department, Darrell says he kept bugging the folks who were in charge of selecting cookbooks with suggestions of titles to consider. He clearly had a lot of enthusiasm for the Deli’s book section, so Darrell was thrilled when he was able to take it over and implement his vision:

I want the books to be an inspiration. I want this to be an easy space for everybody to navigate. I’d like it to be like the favorite bookshop in the movie that has an eccentric owner who slides around on a ladder. … Hopefully, it’s curated enough that I’m getting it down to where you can come in here and you can be guaranteed some novelty. I want to be a destination for all that stuff. For folks to walk in and feel, “Wow, what a book section! I can’t get this collection anywhere else.” I want to make sure that people who had trouble finding parking can easily find a book they love. 

In a lot of ways, the experience we want to create for guests in our cookbook section is similar to the experience we try to cultivate in the Deli as a whole. As Darrell says, “People don’t come to us for the mass market stuff. They come to us for a curated, nuanced experience. And I’d like to reflect that in the books.” So what can you expect to find in our collection? Cookbooks that:

  • Line up with the Zingerman’s definition of great food: “full flavored and traditionally made.”
  • Aren’t prohibitively expensive (not that we don’t love elBulli and Modernist Cuisines tomes).
  • Speak to seasonality. Some cheeses are only available at our counter in certain seasons, and we think about cookbooks in the same way—you probably won’t find a tomato-focused book in our compilation in the depths of winter.
  • Are fun! We’re serious about good food, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a good sense of humor.

Darrell’s also looking for diversity, as he says, “I want to have a Judaica section, I want to celebrate Ari’s books, and I also want to have a lot of female authors. And authors with a particular melanin component—so I feel like I’m actually cooking with folks who I grew up around.” You can also expect to find books that aren’t always straight off the press; Darrell will regularly bring in reprints that deserve another look. And, you can definitely expect to find books that tell stories. As Darrell explains:

I think in today’s busy world where people might be crunched for time to read, cookbooks are the easiest short story. You have a narrative through line for the whole thing, and much like a book of short stories, you might follow one protagonist through all this stuff, but these are just different little vignettes. Picking up a cookbook that’s well-written is kind of like picking up a book of short stories that you can also use. Maybe like a book of poetry, but you can feed people, too.

The Deli’s cookbook collection always includes books that can transport readers to other parts of the world—whether to really dive into different baking and cooking principles or just satisfy a smidge of wanderlust. That’s a trait that Jenny Tubbs, Director at Zingerman’s Press and Zingerman’s Spain Tour Guide often looks for in cookbooks she picks up:

Having recently led a Zingerman’s Food Tour to Basque Country, the sight of the Basque Country cookbook stopped me in my tracks. Looking through the book, I was immediately taken back to a place I fell in love with. I grabbed the book, a tin of white anchovies, some Berria de Onetik Bleu des Basques cheese, and went home to continue my journey. That’s just what a book can do—it can take you to another time, and another place. It can welcome you in and stir up emotions—as well as an appetite! 

But what makes our collection really unique is that Darrell has cooked from every single one you see. (Another benefit of a tightly curated collection, that wouldn’t be possible if we carried 100 different books at a time!) Darrell compares it to trying to sell a car he hasn’t driven, saying, “Ideally, that’s what you should be getting from a bookseller—just as anybody behind the counter can tell you what the cheese goes with.” He usually cooks a few recipes from each one, explaining,

We have astute guests, and someone is invariably going to ask me how something worked out. And I’d rather let them know that I actually read that miscellany about how you’re gonna achieve a better pie crust or this is the problem with this sticking on page 273. I’d much rather have a close reading of it than just go with what the publisher said, or that the cover was cool. 

>> Ready to cook the books with us? Our cookbook selection is always changing, or as Darrell says, “moving and flowing.” So stop in to see what’s new or peruse our online bookshelf.

P.S. We also carry the ingredients you need to start cooking! From baking supplies—including Michigan eggs, butter, and milk—to pantry provisions—from honey to hot sauce, beans to bulgur, and so much more.

P.P.S. You can check out an interview with Darrell in Issue #302 of Zingerman’s News!