I am a cookbook reader and collector. One of my favorites is The Joy of Cooking by Irma S Rombauer. Joy of Cooking, originally written in 1931 as a project to help Rombauer recover from the death of her husband, is fairly comprehensive with a wonderful conversational tone which begs reading not just for the recipes but for Rombauer’s thoughts, her descriptions of food prep, and the black-and-white pen drawings created by her daughter Marion. For example, on the subject of food storage Mrs. Rombauer says, “All of us are guilty on occasion of picking up Junior at the tennis club after shopping and getting involved in some friendly gossip – while the lettuces in the car wilt and the frozen foods begin disastrously to thaw. Remember that heat and moisture encourage spoilage, bacteria, insect infestation and mold.” Then she tells you to keep a cooler in your car. Smart lady.
Besides the recipes one expects to find in any cookbook there are also instructions for entertaining large parties and preserving foods; making Worcestershire Sauce, sauerkraut and cream cheese and developing a starter for sourdough bread. Rombauer explains how to grow and use herbs, how to filet a fish and in my 1975 revised edition, how to make butter in a blender. Yes, alright, you can look up recipes like these on the Internet but why? Reading this cookbook is so much more fun!
The 1975 edition was the last to include her mother’s personal writing style. Later versions were re-edited by professionals. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s Bobbs-Merrill Company republished the original cookbook for its’ 75th anniversary. When you trace the history of The Joy of Cooking you’ll find that even Julia child loved this book and used it interchangeably with her Gourmet magazine. Julia child gave credit to this cookbook as her source for learning the proper way of food preparation. If you can get a copy of one of the older editions of The Joy of Cooking, you will have a treasure in your hands. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I do.
Reviewed by Leigh