The Food Lovers' Cookbook Collection
Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
The Joy of Cooking was first published by Irma Rombauer in 1931. It soon became the cookbook of choice throughout the United States.
It is somewhat derivative of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management in that it is not just a recipe book but also delves into issues of household etiquette and entertainment.
When we arrive at the Canapes and Tea Sandwiches chapter there is a lot to be avoided such as Cream Cheese Spreads or Pizza Canapes based on English Muffins! And when we read the salad of canned pineapple topped with 'riced' cream cheese, then the shutters really go up!
However it is not all bad. There are some recipes that we can all
learn from if the bad examples are ignored.
For example, when you turn to the chapter on fruits there is some erudite, useful writing. You will find discussions on exotic fruits (for the time) such as pomegranates, sapodillas, tamarind and pawpaw.
The section of soups is good with 'realí recipes in many cases including those for gumbo, borsch, split pea soup, oxtail soup and even mulligatawny.
When you get to the section on jellies there is much here that can be immediately translated into the modern era. The only difference might be that leaf gelatine is now widely available and is a much better product to work with than powdered gelatine.
As an example, look at the recipe for Black Raspberry and Gooseberry Jelly. This is a great recipe for creating a jelly from pure fruit.
We then looked at the pickles section and saw the recipe for pickled watermelon rind. This reminded us of a trendy restaurant (Indigo in Bayou Rd) we had visited on a number of occasions in New Orleans. They produced simply the best pickles (including the watermelon variety).
You can't help the feeling that the recipes have been gradually adapted to modern American lifestyle choices as the editions have progressed. There is more ketchup, more Italian paste, more canned products including the insidious canned pineapple
The Joy of Cooking is an historically important book that provides a snapshot of cooking in the 1930s, however we can't help feeling that the 'improvements and updates' made to the book since then have diminished its usefulness.