The 75th Anniversary of The Joy of Cooking

1997 Joy of CookingA couple of years ago in early 2006 I discovered one of the best cookbooks ever published: the Joy of Cooking. If I remember correctly, my roommate Nick checked it out from the BYU library and we both fell in love with it. It wasn’t long before we both bought copies. When we bought them then, the newest version was the 1997 edition.

About the Joy of Cooking

Irma RombauerThe Joy of Cooking was originally published in 1931 by Irma Rombauer. Since then it has been revised and reprinted a half dozen times. It has been in continuous print since 1936 with over 18 million copies sold. It is considered a staple in many kitchens, including many commercial kitchens. A more complete history can be found on the Joy of Cooking website.

The Joy of Cooking is unlike many cookbooks. It is encyclopedic in feel and scope. It is over 1,000 pages and has chapters that cover a very wide variety of topics: sauces, soups, seafood, meat, game, breads, cakes, pies and pastries, vegetables, and candy to name only a few. Each chapter is quite thorough in addressing the entire topic. It talks about the history and customs associated with the categories and subcategories, as well as all of the information you need to become well versed in cooking a particular kind of food. Then it has gobs of tried and true recipes for each variation it talks about. If you need to know just about anything about cooking something, the Joy of Cooking is the place to turn.

There are over 4,000 recipes in the book, and the recipes are organized differently than typical. The ingredients are listed in the middle of the recipes. They are in list format and bold so you can very easily see all of the ingredients in a recipe, but it is far more convenient when you are making a recipe to have the quantity and ingredients right where you are in the recipe. Apparently this also makes the recipes more compact so that many more can be included in the same number of pages.

The Newest Edition

2006 Joy of CookingI recently discovered by accident that a new 2006 edition of the Joy of Cooking came out shortly after I purchased my copy of the 1997 edition. I also found out that the 1997 edition was one of the least popular editions because it departed from the historic voice and feel of the historic Joy of Cooking. The 1997 edition was much more formal in presentation and tone. The 2006 edition returns to the informal feel of the older editions, adds back in several sections that were removed from the 1997 edition, adds several more sections that have never been previously included, and has over 500 additional recipes (making a total of 4500 recipes).

Needless to say, I ordered a copy. It arrived today.

The new edition is well constructed. It has 1132 pages and uses a slightly more compact font than the 1997 edition. The layout is much the same, but does have a few tweaks that make it a little easier to find things. I’ve looked up many of the recipes I’ve used and sections I’ve read and find it to be as good or better than my old 1997 edition. There are a number of differences in recipes, though, so I expect to use them both regularly.

To give you a feel for the scope that it covers, here’s the complete Table of Contents:

    1. A History of the Joy of Cooking
    2. Nutrition
    3. Entertaining
    4. Menus
    5. Beverages
    6. Wine and Beer
    7. Cocktails and Party Drinks
    8. Appetizers and Hors d’Oeuvres
    9. Brunch, Lunch, and Supper Dishes
    10. Stocks and Soups
    11. Salads
    12. Sandwiches, Wraps, and Pizza
    13. Egg Dishes
    14. Fruits
    15. Vegetables
    16. Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings
    17. Grains
    18. Shellfish
    19. Fish
    20. Poultry and Wildfowl
    21. Meat
    22. Game
    23. Stuffings
    24. Savory Sauces, Salad Dressings, Marinades, and Rubs
    25. Breads and Coffee Cakes
    26. Pancakes, Waffles, Fritters, and Doughnuts
    27. Pies and Pastries
    28. Cakes and Cupcakes
    29. Cookies and Bars
    30. Icings, Toppings, and Glazes
    31. Desserts
    32. Frozen Desserts and Sweet Sauces
    33. Candies and Confections
    34. Keeping and Storing Food
    35. Canning, Salting, Smoking, and Drying
    36. Freezing
    37. Jellies and Preserves
    38. Pickles and Relishes
    39. Know Your Ingredients
    40. Cooking Methods and Techniques
    41. Index

The index alone is 60 pages long; taking that into account gives an average of 26.8 pages and 112.5 recipes per chapter. That’s about 4.2 recipes per page overall, though there are usually a couple of pages of introduction at the beginning of each chapter talking about the topic.

How to Get It

I don’t own many cookbooks: this newest one brings the total to 4 (and 2 of them are the Joy of Cooking). I love and use them all, but the Joy of Cooking is certainly the most referenced. I got it from Amazon. They currently have it for $23.10 with free shipping (if you spend over $25). It’s definitely worth the price; it’d be worth the price even if it cost a lot more. If you don’t want to wait for shipping (which I can totally understand—the last week has been excruciating) and you are willing to pay a bit more, I am sure that Barnes and Noble and Borders both have it in stock. The list price for the book is $35.00, but they may have it for less. I absolutely recommend purchasing it.