When one thinks of beloved chef Mario Batali and books, it’s probably his cookbooks that come to mind. But Batali is an avid reader, lover of libraries, and likes to read to kids. On Tuesday, September 14, 2010, he will be reading his favorite foodie picture books at his neighborhood branch, the Jefferson Market Library. After the reading – which is for children 3-7 years of age – everybody will create their own recipe book with some of Mario’s finest child-friendly recipes.
Reading with Mario Batali is free and presented by The New York Public Library Cubs, a membership group for families that inspires lifelong learning by raising funds for children’s books, programs, and services at the New York Public Library. Space is limited and registration is required. To RSVP, please click here.
We recently had the opportunity to ask Batali about his love for books, and we also asked about the connection between books and food.
Mario Batali to read foodie picture books to kids at Jefferson Market LibraryMario, the Library is excited about your upcoming reading for children at the Jefferson Market Library. Can you whet our appetite and tell us what it might be like?
I want to keep the books a surprise. I might throw in a classic that I love like Green Eggs and Ham, but I can’t say much more than that.
You have children. What books have you enjoyed reading to or with them over the years?
Yes, I have two boys, ages 13 and 11. I’ve always read to them and now that they are old, they are voracious readers themselves. I’ve loved reading the Harry Potter series with them – one chapter a night. They were into those books for a while!
What was your first experience with a library?
I remember going to story time hour in our local library when I was very little. I can still remember the first time I smelled a book.
What is a book that made an impression on you as a child?
As an older kid, I remember reading and loving All Quiet on the Western Front and anything by Hemingway, especially The Old Man and The Sea.
What is a book that you've enjoyed or recommend as an adult?
Anything by Jim Harrison. I am a huge Faulkner fan; I really loved The Sound and the Fury for a great intro to stream of consciousness…I also just finished reading Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis; I would definitely recommend it!
We love the mission of the Mario Batali Foundation, which "was established to feed, protect, educate, and empower children, encouraging them to dream big while providing them with the necessary tools to become an active force for change in today's world." Could you tell us more about your work with the Foundation?
The Foundation was born out of big issues I feel most passionate about: children’s disease research, children’s hunger relief, and children’s literacy. Really, it all comes down to opportunity. All children should have the opportunity to learn and grow, and this includes a good education and encouragement. Beyond food, water, and shelter, the ability to read is one of the most important skills we need to thrive in this world.
Lastly, what are you reading now?
This summer I have read Homage to Catalonia by (George) Orwell, (the previously-recommended) Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis, Blindness by (Jose) Saramago, Money: A Suicide Note by (Martin) Amis, and the Your Face Tomorrow series by Javier Marias. Right now I am reading Hitch 22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens and Grandi Vini: An Opinionated Tour of Italy’s 89 Finest Wines by my partner Joe Bastianich.
So, there you have it: Batali reads the classics and also contemporary books, and it makes sense that he remembers the first time he smelled a book. (Chefs need a keen sense of smell, right?)
We hope to see you at the Jefferson Market Library on Tuesday, September 14 at 3:30 p.m.
For more information about the Library’s Cubs program, click here.