Texas (Cook)Book Festival
Reviewing the Central Market Cooking School
The Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition
by Irma Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker Scribner, 1,132 pp., $30
Chances are, if Americans own a cookbook at all, it is the Joy of Cooking. For many, it is a graduation gift, for some, a wedding present. The New York Public Library (quite rightly) named it one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Need I remind you, it was the lone cookbook adorning the cell of Hannibal Lector?
In order to remain useful, it is revised every so often; the American palate and lifestyle have changed a great deal since Irma Rombauer first self-published it in 1931. The grandest overhaul was done in 1975 by Irma's daughter, Marion, who added a wealth of reference material, instruction, and modern dishes. The 1975 edition was a blockbuster and earned Joy the reputation of the "greatest teaching cookbook ever written." Then, in 1997, Marion's son, Ethan, brought out an updated version that reflected his background as a classically trained chef. While the 1997 version was a perfectly valuable cookbook (in many ways a stand-in for culinary school), it wasn't The Joy of Cooking; all familiarity was erased.
In response to vast public and critical outcry, this 75th anniversary edition returns The Joy of Cooking to its roots in the home kitchen. Four thousand of the most beloved recipes are reinstated, as are the voices of Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker. The encyclopedic "Know Your Ingredients" section is back, as is "Cooking Methods and Techniques" wherein terms such as sautéing, fricasseeing, parboiling, roasting, pan-searing, and braising are clearly defined. Restored are the chapters on frozen desserts, pickles and relishes, freezing and canning, beer and wine, smoking and salting, jellies and preserves, and mixing cocktails.
This new edition also brings back the popular "Brunch, Lunch, and Supper" chapter, with its emphasis on quick meals, using leftovers, and convenience foods. But along with this edition's emphasis on cutting-edge knowledge of health and nutrition, these recipes have been updated to be fresher and less fattening. There is a reason The Joy of Cooking is the anchor of many a cook's library: it makes a heroic effort to capture both traditional American cuisine (waffles, meatloaf, tuna casserole) and the foods we have newly adopted (hummus, pho noodles, strata), all the while serving as the ultimate reference text. The Joy is back!
The Texas Book Festival's Joy of Cooking contest finals take place on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2pm, in the Cooking Tent. For more information, see www.texasbookfestival.org.
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