Ode to Joy

The rerelease of a 75th-anniversary edition of classic cookbook The Joy of Cooking has sparked a lot of food-writer musing. First of all, purists should note that the new book’s a complete turnabout from the 1997 edition, a tome so up-to-the-minute that it sparked rancorous criticism from cooks. The 1997 is held in almost universal contempt.

As Nancy Stohs
wrote
in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ”’Joy’ is once again a comforting friend in the kitchen,” noting that the food experts who rewrote the book for the ‘97 version (causing readers to detect “a tone of snobbery, a yuppifying of what for so long was the bible of mainstream home cooking”) have been replaced by writers who favor a more homespun, instructive approach.

Some cooks will be delighted to find that the new edition includes vintage recipes (old-fashioned pickles, one-pot casseroles), as well as those calculated to appeal to modern tastes. Others find the approach a bit schizo, as is evidenced by this quote from an Associated Press story:

... Gourmet magazine editor Ruth Reichl wonders if the new Joy isn’t trying to do too much.

Retro recipes like “mystery cake” (a ’50s classic made with canned tomato soup) sit uneasily alongside directions for making tofu from scratch. “Do the same people really want all these things? I don’t think so,” says Reichl, who recently edited her magazine’s own comprehensive cookbook. Better, she thinks, to “let (cookbooks) live in their own time.”

Me, I’m just happy to have a substitute for the 1951 copy I have worn to a nub.

Meanwhile, The New York Times finds Joy still on its must list (registration required), along with out-of-print cookbooks that remain hot items, like Pillsbury’s Best 1000 Recipes: Best of the Bake-Off Collection and A Treasury of Great Recipes, first published in 1965 by horror movie icon Vincent Price and his wife, Mary.

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