Rosie's 'In the Kitchen' cookbook sells like hot cakes low-fat ones, of course

June 29, 1994|By Mary Schmich | Mary Schmich,Chicago Tribune

Help me, Doctor, help me. There's something I want so desperately to understand, something I've tried so hard to understand, but no matter how I try I fail. It's Rosie.

Rosie O'Donnell? That funny gal in "The Flintstones."

No. Rosie. Oprah's cook. See, Doc, until six weeks ago, Rosie was just an ordinary gal like me, except she cooked for Oprah and my idea of cooking is boiling water for pasta. Then her cookbook went on sale. "In the Kitchen with Rosie." You know how many copies are now in print?


It's entering its 20th printing, Doc! Heading for 4.1 million!


Multiply that by $14.95, Doc. It's the fastest-selling book in history. But why?

Mmm. Have you consulted anyone else about this problem?

I called the publisher, Knopf, in New York, and said, "How do you explain this Rosie business?" And a fellow named Craig Burke said, "I don't think you can." Then I said, "In Knopf's experience, what compares to this?" and he said, "I don't think there is any comparison really."


When I pressed, he said the closest comparison was "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran, which has sold 7 million copies. But that's since 1923 -- 71 years of sales. "In the Kitchen with Rosie" is expected to sell 7 million by Christmas!

My dear, I believe what we are seeing is the power of talk shows.

Oh, come on, Doc. You think anybody would buy a book by Phil Donahue's chef?

All right. The power of Oprah. I've heard an author who appears on "Oprah!" sells 30,000 extra books.

How do you explain the other 4.07 million copies of "Rosie," Doc?

Well, my dear, Rosie's recipes are low-fat so we are no doubt witnessing a manifestation of the eternal yen to be thin, the triumph of hope over diets. No one in our culture personifies this as well as Oprah, who, incidentally, looks terrific lately.

You think Oprah got thin sitting on her duff and eating Rosie's un-fried chicken? The woman runs 4 miles every morning and then runs again at night. She does the Stairmaster and sit-ups. She has a personal trainer. I'd lose weight, too, if I had a personal trainer and a personal cook and time to lounge around on the Stairmaster.

Do I detect some jealousy, my dear?

Never. But all these people buying "In the Kitchen with Rosie" don't need Rosie's cookbook. They need Rosie.

I definitely hear jealousy.

If I were a cookbook author, I'd be jealous. I went to bookstores today. Shelf after shelf of cookbooks.


And only Rosie's is really selling, helped, of course, by the fact they're on display at the check-out counter to seduce impulse buyers. And you know what else?


I think people are buying this book because they love buying cute little books without many words! It's a book for a world that hates to read! It's the cookbook equivalent of "The Bridges of Madison County!"

My dear, your agitation is out of proportion to the topic. Is there something you're not telling me?

No. Not really. I mean. It's just. Oh, Doc, I . . .

You didn't.

I did. I am so ashamed. But hey, I didn't pay full price.

I thought you'd conquered your cookbook compulsion.

I know I swore not to buy more. "Silver Palate," "Joy of Cooking," "Moosewood," I've got 'em all. I've caressed them, perused them, turned down the corners of promising recipes.

Millions of women share this affliction, you know, buying cookbooks as if they're buying recipes for happiness and then abandoning them once they're home.

Yes! Yes! I page through a cookbook and ecstasy courses through me like a good Bordeaux. I opened Rosie's and I saw seductive names like "Skewered Shrimp on Wild Rice Pilaf" and possibility unfurled before me: dinner parties where I would be congratulated and adored, where I'd be exalted as the trendiest cook on the block and so I bought it and . . . AARRGGHH! I'm fantasizing that thet guy who wrote "The Bridges of Madison County" is writing a book with Oprah! Help! Save us!

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