Don’t call it a comeback

In the late 2010s, Alison Roman was the “it” person in the land of viral food videos and was queen of cookbooks. Her debut, 2017’s Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes and the follow up, 2019’s Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over, were NYT bestsellers and wowed EYB Members, with both landing in the top 70 books in the EYB Library by popularity. Nothing Fancy ended up as the “Best of the Best” in our 2019 annual rankings.

Then came 2020, but it was not the pandemic that caused heartburn for Roman, it was an interview in which she suggested that Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen had sold out by launching houseware lines at major retailers. This perceived denigration – aimed at women of color – was underscored by the fact that Roman herself was working on a line of kitchen utensils. She soon became persona non grata in culinary circles, especially as allegations of cultural appropriation also came to light.

After being “semi-canceled” following the interview – she lost her column in The New York Times – Roman didn’t disappear; instead she pivoted to an online newsletter and slowly attempted to rebuild her brand. While she did offer an apology shortly after the interview, she didn’t go on an extended apology tour in an attempt to rehabilitate her image. In fact, she remains rather blasé about the whole affair and is now getting ready to release another cookbook, this time returning to her pastry-chef roots. Sweet Enough comes out next week, and the author discusses her new book, along with the past controversy, in a recent interview with Time magazine.

In the interview, Roman explains why she didn’t engage in a lengthy rehabilitation effort. “I had two choices: I could let it ruin my life or not,” she says. Later in the article she noted: “I’m not ashamed of who I am. I f-cked up. But I never wanted to have ‘a comeback.’ It’s like eating sh-t on the sidewalk. If you lay there, people are going to notice. But if you get right back up, you can rebound and keep moving.” How far she has rebounded might be calculated by how many books she sells this time around.

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  • Jenny  on  March 22, 2023

    I received the new book today – and honestly at first blush it’s lovely. Will have more in next week’s cookbook review. If she apologized and she is sincere and has worked on changing herself for the greater good – she deserves a chance. We all deserve a second chance unless what we have done is outrageously beyond the pale.

  • sanfrannative  on  March 22, 2023

    I know she made a cultural misstep a couple years ago but I never stopped being a huuuuuuuuge fan!

  • Skamper  on  March 23, 2023

    She apologized for being way out of line and generally handled it well, I think. I hope she’s grown in her thinking. I have Nothing Fancy and love it. I likely wont buy this book right away because I don’t currently need a book on sweets (in fact, I need the opposite!), not because I have anything against her.

  • Wende  on  March 27, 2023

    Roman’s first two books are among the most reached for in my kitchen. Her recipes just sing to me, and have far and away been the dishes that garner the most requests for the recipes from guests.
    I’m expecting the new one to come today and I’m pretty excited about it since the desserts from her other books are right up my alley.
    Unfortunately, Alison has a gift for humor and snark, but apparently not for knowing where the third rail was. Her meteoric rise meant that a lot of people would be gunning for her while at the same time allowing equally offensive online remarks from others slide by – one of her targets was well known for her constant attacks on people and finally took a leave of absence from twitter after it was revealed that she drove a woman she targeted to near suicide.
    But back to Roman, I continued to follow her when she moved to substack, and while her contrition about the online incident was very clear, it took her a while to get her wonderful sense of humor up and running again. I’m glad she did. She’s a wonderful writer who doesn’t need the snark to be fun to read.
    To be honest, most people online need to calm down. As my grandmothers used to say, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything.”

  • cookbookaddict2020  on  March 30, 2023

    Chrissy Tiegen is a notoriously cruel and nasty person, and Marie Kondo DID sell out by encouraging people to buy stuff, given that her entire career had been based on preaching that having too much stuff around is stressful, and telling people to get RID of their stuff. “Allegations of cultural appropriation” are nonsensical to make against a food writer: the whole point is to write about foods and recipes, which are necessarily going to originate somewhere. Alison Roman did nothing wrong except succeed enough to inspire hateful jealousy.

  • SerenaYLee  on  April 5, 2023

    @cookbookaddict2020 I concur! I am a woman of color myself, and I don’t find what Alison Roman did was really that offensive. I find it sad that people are no longer allowed to express their opinions publicly without being attacked and “canceled” just because others disagree with them. You can argue to make a counter point, but to “cancel” someone smacks of censorship. For all the vile things that Chrissy Teigen said, she deserved to be vilified, but yet, I don’t hear anyone calling out for her to be canceled. Double standard, no? Regardless, I love both women’s cookbooks, which I judge on their own merits and not based on whether I like the author or not, which is the way I think it should be.

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