Last weekend, I introduced my friend Jen to Occoquan. Occoquan is a small (0.2 square miles!) historic town in Prince William County, Virginia with less than 1,000 residents. After over two hours of venturing through art galleries, craft stores, beer tastings, and gelatos stops—all on one short strip—we ducked into a bookstore at the end of the street before heading home. Without noticing the store’s sign, it became clear the titles had something in common.
THEY. WERE. ALL. ABOUT. FOOD.
Today, I headed back to document this special, bedazzling place in hopes my local (and traveling) foodies discover it in person. I left about four hours later, ask Christine.
Despite the blinding rain outside, there were rare moments without customers: regulars popping in to discuss the history of tea, share book critiques, sit on the floor with titles on hibachi cooking. A repeat customer left with five books and half the items on the clearance cart.
This might be an appropriate time to mention the array of genres within books for cooks. Where corporate bookstores leave foodies wanting more than an aisle of celebrity chef titles, Salt & Pepper Books offers entire shelves on (merely some topics I jotted down): regional cooking, international cuisine, food politics, gardening, cooking memoirs, food ethics, local eating, baking, cooking in the wild, slow cooking, spices, food careers, special diets, seafood, cooking with children, culinary mysteries, flavors, and books on—seriously—cooking.
Christine, the young storeowner, opened Salt & Pepper Books in November 2007. After a successful career in finance, she got to the corner office only to realize, as she put it, “I hate this.” Within a month of leaving her job and relocating from Richmond, she leased the space and opened the store in five months. Christine had no experience in business or retail, but her spicy and easy-going personality suits independent business well. I met a number of regulars in my visit: grandparents to children on a Paleo diet, a first-time cookbook writer, another concerned mother of a vegetarian daughter—Christine had suggestions for each visitor in moments. When I asked her about a new Moroccan cookbook I discovered in Delaware, she had it in my hands before I could recall the title.
Speaking of said cookbook, I only need to teach four more piano lessons to afford the gorgeous Mourad: New Moroccan. Sigh.
It wasn’t until she opened Salt & Pepper Books that Christine discovered an entire world beyond cookbooks: food history, food politics (Lindsey’s personal favorite)—not to mention the culinary mystery series, some written and set locally in Virginia. Check out the titles.
Salt & Pepper Books also sells locally-made aprons, cooking tools, children’s cooking toys and games, and fabulous wine and bar accessories.
Here’s my take: there is something for everyone. Hello, there are 2,000 books! Salt & Pepper is for the novice, the college student, the home brewer, the gluten-free, the gourmet, the wino, the scholar. It is a charming store that warrants many visits. You will leave inspired!
Here’s the good news—if you can’t visit in person, you can still purchase books from Salt & Pepper books through the shop’s website.
Salt & Pepper Books is located on the first floor of the Riverwalk Shops in Occoquan, Virginia. The building is located on the riverfront (125 Mill Street), next to the Route 123 bridge. There is plenty of free parking both in the lot next to the building and under the bridge.
If you come to town, I will personally take you for a visit 🙂