‘Joy of Cooking,’ America’s most popular cookbook: 9 things you should know about the new edition
Almost 20 million copies of “Joy of Cooking” are in print today. It has been published continuously since 1936.
The 9th edition of “Joy of Cooking,” which was first published in 1931, arrived in stores this month. Here are some things to know about what has been called America’s most popular cookbook:
• “The Joy of Cooking” originally was self-published in 1931 by Irma S. Rombauer, a 54-year-old St. Louis homemaker, following her husband’s death by suicide. The full title was “The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat,” and it had just 300 recipes, compared with some 4,600 today. The first commercial edition was published in 1936 by the Bobbs-Merrill Co.
• Use of the word “joy” in the title was deliberate. The Depression sped up the demise of kitchen help that had been available not just to the wealthy but also to middle class families, Anne Mendelson writes in “Stand Facing the Stove.” Rombauer wanted to assure her “sisters” new to kitchen tasks that cooking was “not only a virtue but a delight.”
• In that same vein, the cover of the original “Joy” is an illustration created by Rombauer’s daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker. It depicts St. Martha of Bethany, the patron saint of cooking, slaying the dragon of kitchen drudgery.
• “Joy of Cooking” has been a family affair all along. After Irma Rombauer died in 1962, Marion assumed the “Joy” mantle with publication of the 1963 edition. Her son Ethan Becker helped her revise the 1975 edition and then oversaw the 1997 and 2006 editions. This latest edition was undertaken by his son, John Becker, with John’s wife, Megan Scott.
• Almost 20 million copies of “Joy of Cooking” are in print today. It has been published continuously since 1936.
• It is considered the most popular American cookbook, with the 1975 version the most favored (so far) of all the editions.
• Outside the U.S., the book sells best, not surprisingly, in English-speaking markets: Australia, the United Kingdom and — in particular — Canada. Translation rights have been sold in Korean and Chinese.
• The New York Public Library named “Joy of Cooking” one of the 150 most influential books of the 20th century.
• The 2019 book is a larger format than previous editions, measuring 9-3/8 by 8-3/8 inches. It contains 1,156 pages and weighs a hefty 4 pounds, 12¾ ounces — a full pound more than the 2006 edition. (Don’t drop it on your foot.)
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