'Joy of Cooking' Marks 75th Year Benefitting from such practical advice as "stand facing the stove," millions of Americans have cooked up dishes and stories with The Joy of Cooking, which has been around for 75 years this week.
NPR logo

'Joy of Cooking' Marks 75th Year

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6571199/6571200" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Joy of Cooking' Marks 75th Year

'Joy of Cooking' Marks 75th Year

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6571199/6571200" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

This week, the most popular cookbook in America turns 75. "Joy of Cooking" is almost an octogenarian. Since Irma Rombauer first published it in 1931, "Joy of Cooking" has gone through numerous revisions and some debate about what puts the joy in "Joy." But with firm instructions to stand facing the stove, millions of Americans have generated their own "Joy of Cooking" stories.

We invited some of the chefs and foodies who have been on our program this past year to share their "Joy of Cooking" memories.

Mr. FRANK STITT(ph) (Founder, Highland's Bar and Grill): As a child, "The Joy of Cooking" was the most dog-eared, the most splattered, and it was the cookbook I really grew up with all my brothers and sister and my family in Cullman, Alabama back in the '50s and '60s.

ELLIOTT: Frank Stitt founded Highland's Bar and Grill in Birmingham. Today, his culinary style mixes traditional Southern flavors with those of France. Back in the day, "Joy" was a fixture on his mother's kitchen counter.

Mr. STITT: Being from Alabama and being from a small town, we were able to learn about rhubarb and artichokes and quince and doing things a la grec, to learn about some of these fruits and vegetables that were not native to the South. This was kind of a passport to a bigger America for me.

Ms. HIROKO SHIMBO (Sushi Expert): I was born and raised in Japan, so making jams and jellies wasn't in my blood.

ELLIOTT: Hiroko Shimbo is a sushi expert, among other things. Seven years ago, she moved to New York, where she discovered seasonal fruit at the farmer's market, abundant apricots, strawberries and quince. Her husband sent her directly to "The Joy of Cooking."

Ms. SHIMBO: The first page which I opened was page 772, jellies, jams, preserves, and the marmalade.

ELLIOTT: Hiroko Shimbo became a jellies and jams addict. She doesn't follow the recipes in "Joy," but like many cooks, she uses its guidelines to concoct new creations each year.

Ms. SHIMBO: And last year, I made gooseberries jam and it was just wonderful.

ELLIOTT: And the year before that?

Ms. SHIMBO: Apricot. We made so much, we gave them to our friends and families.

ELLIOTT: And this year?

Ms. SHIMBO: This year I tried currant jelly. It was super.

ELLIOTT: Hiroko Shimbo inherited her browned and beaten mid-'60s "Joy of Cooking" from her husband's ex-wife.

Bonnie Slotnick uses the 1975 edition.

Ms. BONNIE SLOTNICK (Bookstore Owner): That's the white one with the word joy in gold on the front. And it's pretty clean except for where it's stuck together.

ELLIOTT: Slotnick owns an out-of-print cookbook store in Greenwich Village. The stuck-together page in her book is the brown stock page.

Ms. SLOTNICK: Something I have only made once or twice in my life, but about 10 years ago a very good friend of mine was in the hospital and he was dying and I was determined that I was going to produce something that he could eat. And he couldn't chew and he didn't want anything rich. And I thought, well, Mrs. Rombauer is going to teach me to make a nourishing consommé.

ELLIOTT: So Bonnie Slotnick bought the meat and the herbs...

Ms. SLOTNICK: And I cooked it and cooked it and cooked it and strained it through cheesecloth and clarified it with egg shells, and then I strained it again through cheesecloth and it was beautiful. It was this beautiful golden color, steaming hot. I put it in a thermos and I took it to my friend, and that was really the only thing he was able to eat. And I felt like, okay, I, you know, I've done what I could do.

Ms. MADHUR JAFFREY (Cookbook Writer): Hello, this is Madhur Jaffrey. I'm an actress and I write about food. I write cookbooks.

ELLIOTT: Indian cookbooks, for the most part.

Ms. JAFFREY: When I first came to this country, which was in the late '50s, this was my first cookbook, "The Joy of Cooking."

ELLIOTT: Madhur Jaffrey is married to violinist Sanford Allen, who used to play in the New York Philharmonic.

Ms. JAFFREY: And he also loved jazz and knew all the jazz greats. And one day he came home and he said to me, I've invited - this was just after we'd got married - I've invited Dizzy Gillespie for dinner. And I said, What? You've invited Dizzy Gillespie for dinner? What am I going to cook? And I said, Does he like Indian food? He said, I don't know.


Ms. JAFFREY: So I settled on a recipe from "The Joy of Cooking," which was baked red snapper with savory tomato sauce.


ELLIOTT: That's on page 413 of the popular 1975 edition, if you're following along.

Madhur Jaffrey thought she'd give the tomato sauce an Indian flavor with mustard and cumin seeds, but nothing too hot. She sent her husband out to get the fish.

Ms. JAFFREY: I assumed it was like a two-pound snapper or something like that, and I baked it, brought it to the table in grand style. There was this huge baked fish sitting there. And I started cutting into it in front of Dizzy, and it wouldn't cut. It was totally, totally uncooked. I think I had a six-pound fish and it was totally raw, and I had to say, excuse me, and take it back and put it into the oven for another at least 45 minutes before it was done.

ELLIOTT: The red snapper the trumpeter so patiently held his breath for is not in the new edition of "Joy," but the lesson remains the same: always weigh your fish before you start cooking. And there's another thing that remains the same: individual memories of food and family and friendship lodged among the splattered of your own family's copy. Happy 75th birthday, "Joy of Cooking".


Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.