What will happen to Mario Batali's cookbook legacy?

Shortly after the news broke late last year that chef, restaurateur, and television host Mario Batali had been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault, many of his business dealings began to fall apart. He was removed from the The Chew  and he lost other television deals that were in the works. Three of his restaurants anounced that they were closing, and Eataly (which Batali co-owns with Joe Bastianich) removed his branded products from its shelves. But what about the many cookbooks he has written? Eater's 

According to booksellers, Batali's books haven't sold well for years. His most recent book, 2016's Big American Cookbook, sold about 30,000 copies, barely making it onto the best-seller list for that year. That's not bad, but it's nothing compared to the roughly 400,000 copies Ina Garten sold in 2016.

Retail bookstore owners corroborate those statistics with their own anecdotes. Matt Sartwell, owner of Kitchen Arts & Letters, notes that sales of Batali's books have been in decline for years. "To be honest, our business with Batali books had fallen off a long time ago," he says. Celia Sack of Omnivore Books told Eater via email that Batali's books "were never terribly popular because my customers rarely buy books by 'celebrity chefs,' but now, especially, I can't wait to just have them off my shelves." 

Both retailers say they won't remove the books from their stores, but they are not going to promote them. Other booksellers, such as Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, are doing the same. They have removed the books from displays or prominent locations, but feel that it would be censorship to pull the books entirely. 

For many individuals, however, it's a different story. Food writer Adam Roberts (aka The Amateur Gourmet) announced on Instagram that he was throwing out his Batali books. He told Eater that he "couldn't stand to see Mario's face on my bookshelf after reading about his behavior towards women." Other people have banished their Batali books to the basement while they decide their ultimate fate. 

I had one Batali book on my shelves, a copy that I had picked up for a song at a thrift store. The decision to donate the book to another secondhand store was, therefore, easy to make. I have many other - and better - Italian cookbooks, by Marcella Hazan and other great writers. There is no need for me to keep Batali's book and it didn't feel right allowing Batali to share shelf space with Hazan. 

Batali's most popular book in the EYB Library is the 2005 volume Molto Italiano, which resides on over 1300 Bookshelves, squeaking into the 100 most popular books on the site (#92). Subsequent cookbooks by Batali haven't done nearly as well, with the latest, Big American Cookbook, found on only 184 Bookshelves. It doesn't appear as though EYB Members are tossing Batali's books in the trash bin, although people may give away the book and not remove it from their EYB Library. If you own some of Batali's books, what are your plans for them? 

9 Comments

  • TrishaCP  on  7/5/2018 at 8:34 PM

    Already culled for the reasons discussed above.

  • wester  on  7/6/2018 at 1:33 AM

    I don't own any of his books, but if I did I wouldn't bin them for that reason. I'd see it as an exercise in cognitive dissonance. I wouldn't give them away to anyone I know anymore, though - that would definitely give the wrong message.

  • TraceyG  on  7/6/2018 at 3:57 AM

    This kind of narrow-mindlessness makes me crazy. I don't own any MB cookbooks. but that because I don't like his style. But if I did, I wouldn't toss them. Why? Because it has zero effect on him. Also, his cookbooks didn't harass anyone. He did. It reminds me of a friend who didn't watch Barbra Streisand movies because ahe didn't agree with her politics. Really? It was on DVD that came out 15+ years ago. Small-mindedness at its finest.

  • Jane  on  7/6/2018 at 7:23 AM

    Tracey - the definition of small-mindedness is pettiness, narrowness, or meanness. And doesn't that apply to deriding someone else's right to be offended by an alleged sexual predator? Yes his recipes did not sexually assault anyone but the author has been accused of this and his photo is prominently displayed on the cover of most of his books. If someone feels uncomfortable seeing his books on their bookshelf then that is their right. You cannot dictate how other people should feel.

  • Larkspur  on  7/6/2018 at 8:35 AM

    I don’t own any Mario Batali books so it’s not a decision I had to make, but I did have several books by an author who (allegedly) sexually abused her child. I got rid of all but one, as it was one of my favorite books that I reread often. Even though I kept it, I have not reread the book since finding out about the abuse and I don’t know if I will ever be able to reread it or enjoy it if I do—so maybe I will get rid of it someday.

  • Rinshin  on  7/6/2018 at 3:03 PM

    I only own 1 book by Batali and it is on American cooking. I will keep it because I am fascinated by regional cooking styles in the US and in Japan as well as older recipes with history. We travel by car visiting various places in the US and I usually come back wanting to try different regional styles we've sampled on our travels. I also kept all of Jeff Smith's books because there were some very good recipes from him.

  • TrishaCP  on  7/6/2018 at 4:07 PM

    TraceyG- I cook for enjoyment. Personally, looking at Mario's face (on all his cookbooks) and reading and using his recipes holds no joy for me anymore knowing what he's accused of doing. Call me small-minded if you want- this is an issue that is close to home for me. #metoo Thanks to the other commenters who don't agree with me but responded with civility rather than simply attacking.

  • Smokeydoke  on  7/7/2018 at 7:28 PM

    I'm keeping them. I did my part by not going to Carnevino for my birthday (which was a huge leap by my husband to ask such a thing as he'd never spend that kind of money anywhere else), and Carnevino closed down. I didn't want them to close down, I didn't want innocent people to lose their jobs, but I couldn't, in good consciousness, go to Carnevino and support Batali after hearing the allegations.

  • GladysW  on  7/25/2018 at 7:46 PM

    I have several Batali cookbooks. I wouldn’t buy another one, because I wouldn’t want to give him any more money, but getting rid of my existing books has no effect on him. The only one who gets hurt in that situation is ME, because I would lose all of those great recipes. I also still have all of my Frugal Gourmet cookbooks, even though Jeff Smith was accused of something, I don’t even remember any more. The point is, these are RECIPE books, they are not lifestyle books. I don’t know anything about the personal lives of most of my cookbooks’ authors, and I really don’t care. I only care if the recipes are good. And some of Batali’s recipes are VERY good and are in my regular rotation. His homemade pasta and basic sauces (butter and sage, basic tomato) are what i’ve Been doing for years.

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