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Monday, August 15, 2005

Now We're Cookin'

No visit by any serious foodie to San Francisco would be complete without visting one small, tucked away store simply called Cookin'.

Cookin is a "recycled gourmet appurtenances" shop on Divisadero in the lower Haight that is owned and operated by a Ms. J Kaminsky.

Walking into Cookin' makes you feel like a bull walking into a china shop since the store is stacked floor to ceiling with used kitchen appliances, doo-dads, pots, pans, plates, and practically about any cooking "appurtenance" you can imagine. Obviously, navigating through the store isn't easy, but Kaminsky makes it easier by organizing each category of cookware into it's own separate section. Nevertheless, that cookware section could include hundreds of cookie cutters merging into 20 various meat grinders merging into dozens of earthenware, etc.

Cookin' is the place you come to find that thingamabob your grandmother once had but was lost or stolen or swiped by that greedy cousin of yours. Though we forgot to ask, I bet she even has a few aebleskiver pans. The cool thing is that, if you ask Kaminsky if she has something, she'll know and she'll point it out to you; an impressive feat of memory since the store has thousands upon thousands of used cookware, large and small, sometimes buried underneath each other.

Not to be disrespectful, but Kaminsky is kind of like the Fred Sanford of used cookware. She can, no doubt, tell you a story behind each piece she has in the store. Of course, the trip to Cookin' wouldn't be complete without striking up a conversation with her. The first thing you might hear from her is "hello", as you're walking into the store. You may wonder at first who said it since, as she can hear you walk in, you can't see her from the pots and pans and other kitchen gadgetry.

That happened last Saturday when we paid her a visit. Walking a few more feet into the store, I see her sitting behind her desk reading what appears to be a mystery paperback. Her eyes are glued to the book, but her ears can hear every word of your conversation.

When I asked how long the store has been around, she replies "a long time". When asked how many items she thinks she has, she says "too many". When I ask her if I can take a few pictures of her store, she says "ok, but it'll be too dark to take a good one", and then she asks where I'm from. Telling her I was from San Francisco only brought on a look of consternation. When I tell her that I also take pictures of my food, she seems to write it all up to "he must be another kooky local".

A trip to Cookin' is like a trip to a museum. You can literally spend hours sorting through the cups, the cast-iron cookware, and the books. Aftwards, you'll probably have cookware fatigue. The stuff she sells isn't cheap, but the prices seem fair. And if you're wondering if she sells over the Internet, forget about it. Just entering the "SKU" numbers alone would take months of work using dozens of voluteers.

No, you'll just have to go there yourself. And if you do, have a list ready and a hefty chunk of change, because you certainly will want to spend it.

So, what did I buy?

How about this...

Kaminsky says, "so what are you going to do with this?"

I say, "A rice mold. Probably a seafood risotto, individual portions."

Subtlely, she seems impressed.

Brownie points!

Recycled Gourmet Appurtenances
339 Divisadero



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Less Fred Sanford, more Soup Nazi (not that I've seen that TV show...). The prices are... unpredictable and often astronomical. But a great resource nonetheless. I found her pawing through a Paris fleamarket once. That's where a lot of her stuff comes from, especially now that we no longer have great fleamarkets in the Bay Area (like the Marin fleamarket where you used to be able to find her).

12:08 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

WOW! I never knew this little shop existed. Thanks for the heads up.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Elise said...

This is one of my absolutely favorite places to shop! I love that woman. She does have an edge to her, now doesn't she?

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edge? Judy? That's called local color. Simply no one knows the business better than her. I'm a kitchen designer and used to stop in regularly. I hadn't been there in over a year, stopped in and she yelled "COME HERE RIGHT NOW!!". She pulled out an antique door marker with my last name on it that she found in a London flea market knowing full well I'd come back in someday. Now you tell me how I can top that service? I insist that all my clients can't complete a kitchen renovation without her. There is truly the best.

7:52 AM  

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