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The All-New, All-Purpose Joy of Cooking

(article, Caroline Cummins)

The Joy of Cooking has been with us forever, it seems. Like its British equivalent, Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, the Joy gets a makeover every decade or so, its American-cooking basics revised to reflect the editors' take on what Americans want to eat right now. Some 18 million copies of the book have been sold since its debut in 1930; most American households have a copy, the casserole and cookie pages splotched with stains. 

With the recent arrival of the latest edition, The All-New, All-Purpose Joy of Cooking, much media debate ensued as to whether America needed yet another version of this cooking bible. Out with the old 1997 edition, which supposedly bowed to uppity foodie desires for exotic, elegant cookery; in with the new 2006 version, which stakes a canned-soup claim to its retro heritage, resurrecting such recipes as shrimp wiggle and blender borscht. 

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Frankly, the criticisms are just a cloud of overwhipped cream, because the 1997 book — like all the Joys before it — still does what it's supposed to do: explain the basics and share the classics. Need to know how to truss, roast, and carve a chicken? Bake and assemble a three-tiered wedding cake? Get a quick definition and cooking tip for almost any foodstuff? Pretty much any Joy will do it for you, and the 1997 book is intelligent without being formal, cozy without being cloying. 

And yes, the tried-and-true favorites are still there: pasta sauces, quick breads, reliable salads. Makeovers or no, the bare bones of Joy of Cooking remain a sturdy foundation for any kitchen bookshelf.

p(bio). [caroline@culinate.com "Caroline Cummins"] is the managing editor of Culinate.


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