Chris Smith: Joy, tears at Sonoma Valley’s post-fire cookbook giveaway

You wouldn’t think a cookbook giveaway would be all that emotional.

But much percolated to the surface Sunday as Sonoma Valley chef Sondra Bernstein and a slew of volunteers beckoned people whose homes burned exactly six months earlier to help themselves to what was possibly history’s greatest selection of donated cookbooks.

“A lot of tears,” said Bernstein of The Girl & the Fig restaurant. “A lot of tears.”

Among the perhaps 10,000 volumes that filled a MacArthur Street warehouse, a woman found a replacement copy of a cookbook she’d received as a wedding gift. Other fire survivors pressed to their hearts the kitchen fundamentals they’d used forever and lost along with everything else they owned:

“The Joy of Cooking.” The red-and-white checkered “New Cook Book” by Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Alice Waters’ early books. “From the Earth to the Table” by Sonoma County’s John Ash.

Charlene Vervais, whose “forever home” in Fountaingrove burned, gasped discovering “Simca’s Cuisine” and “New Menus from Simca’s Cuisine” by Simone “Simca” Beck, a contemporary of Julia Child. Charlene had treasured her original copies ever since she met Simca in France and later in San Francisco.

“I never thought I’d find them,” she said.

Yet, there they were.


SHOES FOR YOUSE? Janet Unverferth hopes to hear from you if you lived in Coffey Park until the fires and could use a new pair of shoes.

Janet phoned online shoe retailer Zappos to place an order and got to talking about the firestorms with a sales rep. The Zappos employee was so moved by what Janet told her that she opened her purse and then rallied coworkers to help out.

They put up $200 for fire survivors. That will buy several pairs of flip-flops, fewer pairs of more substantial shoes.

To request a pair, email Janet at


POST-FIRE YOGA: If you read Martin Espinoza’s story Monday about the sorrow and distress familiar to many fire survivors, you know free classes are open to those enticed by the concept of healing through yoga and meditation.

Hannah Caratti, a Santa Rosa yoga instructor and licensed family therapist, is offering people impacted by the fires specialized yoga and Integrative Restoration meditation classes. The cost of the sessions at YogaOne in Santa Rosa will be paid by a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Sonoma County.

Caratti invites fire survivors to go onto and scroll down to the orange block on help for people recovering from the firestorms.

A colleague of Caratti, Therese Smith, is leading similar classes at Sonoma Rebound,


KING IN THE SENATE: Thursday morning, state Sen. Mike McGuire will welcome onto the Senate floor Sonoma County “Pasta King” Art Ibleto.

The lawmaker from Healdsburg will honor Art, who’s 91, for all the people he fed for free after the fires, and for all the money his pasta feeds have raised for relief efforts locally and around the world.

You can watch the 9 a.m. presentation by going to and clicking at the upper left, “Live Streams in Progress.” Then, go to “Senate Floor Session.”

You can reach staff Writer Chris Smith at 707-521-5211 and

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