Pros: Updates, recipe modifications, teaching sections
Cons: My book is upside down (but every bit as good as the cake)
Nearly every newly married couple receives a copy of "The Joy of" either through a shower or on their wedding day with the knowledge that this will continually prove valuable for many years to come. My mother said it was one of the best ways to keep a marriage happy. That isn't how my first copy arrived, but nonetheless, the classic Joy of Cooking was my second cookbook and remained my go-to cookbook for many, many years. It's now shredded, tattered, and in clumps.
That was back in 1976. I'm on my second book that should last as long, possibly longer since my first copy was a paperback and this is a hardback. The 75th edition Anniversary copy of Irma S. Rombauer's Joy of Cooking claims that 4,000 of the classic recipes have been retested and updated. There are also 400 new recipes. This has "4500 recipes for the way we cook now." This revised, updated, anniversary edition is based upon the 1975 book (the one I sort of still have) and the hope was to "restore, expand and revise the teaching text, and bring JOY's voice back loud and clear." This was information that had been compiled by Ethan Becker's mother and grandmother for the earlier edition. Today's Joy of Cooking contains valuable cooking instruction as well as recipes from the Rombauer Family, Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. Toward the end Ethan Becker, his wife and a few others sat down with Julia Child who helped review the final project. This remains a joy.
Much Has Changed, Some Remains the Same
Beside the fact that new ingredients and recipes show up in the index (there wasn't any udon, tempeh, or amaranth in the 1975 copy), this remains a "go-to" cookbook. I went to it for the "how-to's" and the "what-is-it" information. Mom wasn't always around, besides, my apologies to mom, but she was a horrible cook. She liked TV dinners and simple canned meals. She could make a mean apple pie thanks to grandmother, but her repertoire was/is limited. This book appealed to an entire generation who needed to learn how to cook. The 75th Anniversary copy expands this format with much more than in my original book. It opens with a strong, more relevant and informative section on nutrition (but we have learned so much since 1975). As you read through the book, yes, some people will read the cookbook especially the teaching sections, you'll find that grandson Ethan Becker has provided symbols: arrows for pointers or tips for success, triangles for alerts to high-altitude cooking hints, and parentheses for identification of optional ingredients or advice.
Each chapter opens with teaching content. There are 37 chapters, 39 if you include the last two, Know Your Ingredients and Cooking Methods and Techniques. The edges of these pages are shaded for quick access, a feature beginning cooks will appreciate. Ingredients are in alphabetical order. Not all of the ingredients are described here, for udon you need to use the index that will guide readers to a small section on Asian noodles. Tempeh has its own paragraph close to tofu and other vegetarian proteins. These are only a tiny fraction of the changes; the book has been completely updated and modernized.
My book had nearly 200 fewer pages, including the index, than this which has 1132 pages. As it should, Joy grows over time, but this one should accompany me through the next 30 or 40 years.
The recipes have benefited from this effort. Even Grandma Rombauer's Skillet or Upside-down Cake has changed. Now called the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake the recipe encourages the use of unsweetened pineapple. It's a cake with a history, "Traditionally baked in a cast-iron skillet or spider, this cake was devised to promote canned pineapple." The introductory material provides modification tips for a gooier topping. The entire recipe has been altered, but it still works, tastes just as good, and the texture is possibly improved. Following the instruction on cobblers and fruit pastries is a discussion of Slumps and Grunts. My original book was slump and grunt free.
There are far too many chapters to list, but know that in addition to the expected sections for a general cookbook of this nature, it also offers chapters on Entertaining, Menus, Cocktails and Party Drinks, Keeping and Storing Food, Canning/Salting/Smoking/Drying, Freezing, Jellies and Preserves, Pickles and Relishes. The pancakes, waffles, and fritters are great. A tip: Did you know that if you rest, cover, and refrigerate most pancake batters, you won't have to worry about lumps?
It's full of trivia as well as recipes, insight, and personal experiences. Additional recipes recognize the diversity of the audience and the foods we eat. My original book did not have recipes for goat; this has Jamaican Curried Goat as well as information about goat and kid.
My 75th Anniversary edition is almost too special to use. Will it become a collector's item if I never splatter the pages with sauce and spices? Will it be my loss if I don't use this book? Probably, however, my copy is unique and I may need to buy a second copy for use. Not only is it a special book, but it was bound upside down. The book cover (not the jacket) is completely upside down and backwards from the contents. That added to the joy and laughter when I opened the gift.
Joy of Cooking continues to be the best general purpose cookbook for all levels of chefs, the newly married-just-beginning-to-explore-cooking novice to the worldly-vastly-experienced-chef who is exploring culinary frontiers. There are classics that you will always return to with revisions of some that are more appropriate for our health-conscious times. If you have an older copy I think it's time to invest in this newer version; you'll really like the new joy.