The Joy of Cooking

I grew up with the edition of the Joy of Cooking that was bound in turquoise fabric and was first released sometime in the early 1960’s.  It was a staple reference tome in my house, especially in the years before the internet made it easy to find 12 different recipes for the same cake in under 4 seconds.  The two red ribbon bookmarks attached to the binding were typically tucked in next to the quick banana bread recipe (although that has become unnecessary, as so much batter has been splattered on those pages, that when the book is left to it’s own devises, it opens naturally to that page), and the other would be in with the turkey roasting instructions.

It was a wedding present to my mom from her new mother-in-law when my parents got married in 1970.  Like many things that have lived and been loved for more than 35 years, it doesn’t look the way it once did.  The front cover fell off while I was in high school and was reattached with a wide strip of silver tape.  Many of the pages have been enhanced with splashes of water or oil or gravy and don’t behave entirely like paper anymore.
When I went off to college, I wanted my own copy of the Joy of Cooking, and soon acquired a shiny copy of the 1997 edition.  Except that I couldn’t find the right banana bread recipe.  And it was missing all the cute drawings of the overly slender hands doing things like beheading a duck or carving a standing rib roast.  This new book was foreign, like a stranger who called herself mom, but had no relation to the woman who raised me.

I stumbled along with this traitorious book, calling home for recipes when I couldn’t make it cooperate.  But it hasn’t been well-loved, there are no moments in the binding where use and enthusiasm have forever altered it’s range of movement.

When I moved to Philadelphia, I started visiting my Aunt Anne every couple of months or so.  One day, while standing in her dining room, I noticed a short stack of cookbooks.  My eye was drawn to an edition of the Joy of Cooking.  It was covered in a white dust jacket, but when I picked it up and peeked behind the cover, I was thrilled to be greeted by the familiar turquoise binding that I knew so well.

Aunt Anne was thrilled for me to take the book home with me (she stopped cooking from recipes sometime in the late 80’s) and I have had it now for more than four years.  I love the continuity of looking at the same resource recipes in Philadelphia that my parents and I used in LA and Portland.

*This post was inspired by a segment on All Things Considered that aired last Saturday evening.  I was standing in my kitchen, making ever more cookies, when it came on.   It’s nice to know that others are as insanely passionate about their Joy of Cooking as I am.

0 thoughts on “The Joy of Cooking

  1. Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds

    I adore my copy of the 1970 Joy of Cooking too! Sometimes I read it just for entertainment. I love all of the descriptions of either really exotic (bear and porcupine) or really retro dishes (aspic). I had an idea once to start a blog where I tried all the weird recipes from it and reviewed them. My favorite recipe, by far, which I will be making sometime this Christmas season, are Pecan Puffs. I highly recommend them.

  2. sherry

    And Irma Rombauer was a UU! I have the 1997 version and although I reference it often, I do not love it. There is a great review on of the new release. You should check it out.

  3. Leah

    My boyfriend is obsessed with his copy of the Joy of Cooking. His has a white leatherette cover though. We’ve used it for all sorts of things. But especially for use in making of waffles.

    He has often thought about getting a newer version, but was “underwhelmed” with it’s layout. So he’s sticking by ye olde faithful for the time being.

  4. Jamie

    We had that one growing up too, I am pretty sure we used it for one recipe over and over and turkey as well. Currently ours (white with red letters) is marked to open on chocolate chip cookies, how to cook meats or pie crust.

  5. Sparky

    And maybe this one is a tad more up to date in comparision. I know I had to replace my Mom’s BHG when I noticed a few mentions of lard and MSG as main ingredients.

  6. Fran

    Hmm…my story is parallel. I grew up with a blue-covered “good housekeeping” cookbook my mom acquired in the late 60’s. When I went to college I looked everywhere and finally found one in that old huge used book store on South Street–is that store even there anymore? Of course, there is a worn yellow bit of paper in the page with the banana bread recipe! There are also excellent recipes for chicken salad and pumpkin pie.

  7. craige

    The Joy of Cooking was the first cookbook I bought when I went to college in ’93. It doesn’t have the blue binding, but it does have the goofy pictures. It’s not my favorite one now as so many of the recipes are just plain weird. But I do often check to see how those ladies recommend making something as well, even when I’m following a recipe from another cookbook.


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