The Joy of Cooking is one of the United States' most-published cookbooks, having been in print continuously since 1936 and with more than 18 million copies sold. It was privately published in 1931 by Irma S. Rombauer, a homemaker in St. Louis, Missouri, who was struggling emotionally and financially after her husband's suicide the previous year. Rombauer had 3,000 copies printed by A.C. Clayton, a company which had printed labels for fancy St. Louis shoe companies and for Listerine, but never a book. In 1936, the book was picked up by a commercial printing house, the Bobbs-Merrill Company. While Joy is considered a bit daunting for beginning cooks, it is the backbone of many home cooks' libraries and is commonly found in commercial kitchens as well.
First Edition (1931)
In 1931, Rombauer, a recent widow needing a way to support her family, self-published "The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat."
The book was illustrated by Rombauer's daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker, who directed the art department at John Burroughs School. Working on weekends during the winter of 1930-31, Marion designed the cover, which depicted St. Martha of Bethany, the patron saint of cooking, slaying a dragon. She also produced silhouette cutouts to illustrate chapter headings.
Much slimmer and more conversational than later editions, the original Depression-era edition included sections on canning, pickling, and instructions on how to use meats such as squirrel, opossum and raccoon.
In 1962, a revised edition of Joy
was published, the first since Irma's death. The edition was released without Becker's consent. Subsequent releases of the book in 1963 and 1964 were essentially massive corrections, and Becker was known to swap copies of the 1962 edition for later corrected versions.
This edition was published in paperback format (most notably, a two-volume mass market paperback edition) until sometime after the release of the 1997 edition, when it was superseded by the 1975 edition. It is still widely available in used bookstores. The 1964 edition was also released as a single-volume comb-ring bound paperback mass-market edition starting in November 1973 and continuing into the early 1990s (ISBN 0-452-25665-8).
The 1975 edition was the last to be edited by Becker, and remains the most popular. More than 1,000 pages long, it became a staple in kitchens throughout the country. Though many of the sections may feel dated to the contemporary American palate, many home chefs still find it a useful reference and it is still widely consulted. The foreword to this edition explains that Becker's favorite recipes include "Cockaigne
" in the name, (e.g., "Fruit Cake Cockaigne"), after the name of her country home in Anderson Township, near Cincinnati, Ohio.
The 1975 edition remained in print, primarily in various inexpensive paperback editions, until the 75th Anniversary edition arrived in 2006.
In early 1997, the environmentalist group Sea Turtle Survival League complained that the 1975 edition contained a recipe for cooking Green Sea Turtle, an endangered species by the 1990s. The 1997 edition did not contain the recipe; the 2006 edition does contain a turtle soup recipe, but specifies the use of non-threatened freshwater species.
After the 1975 edition, the project lay unchanged for about 20 years. In the mid-1990s, publisher Simon and Schuster
, which owns the Joy
copyrights, hired influential cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli, formerly of Willam Morrow, and editor of works by Jeff Smith
and others. Guarnaschelli, under the supervision of Rombauer's grandson Ethan Becker, oversaw the creation of the controversial 1997 edition. The new edition kept the concise style of its predecessors, but dropped the conversational first-person narration. Much of the book was ghostwritten by teams of expert chefs instead of the single dedicated amateur that Irma Rombauer had been when she created the book. The 1997 version is fairly comprehensive, covering a great deal of detail that is not traditionally part of American cooking; however, it deleted much information about ingredients and frozen desserts.
Originally sold with the title The All-New, All-Purpose Joy of Cooking, it was reissued in February 2008 with the title The 1997 Joy of Cooking after being sold for some time alongside the 2006 edition.
75th Anniversary Edition
In 2006, a 75th Anniversary edition was published, containing 4,500 recipes and returning Rombauer's original voice to the book. The new version removes some of the professionalism of the 1997 edition and returns many simpler recipes and recipes assisted by ready-made products such as cream of mushroom soup
and store-bought wontons. The 2006 edition also reinstates the cocktail section and the frozen desserts section, and restores much of the information that was deleted in the 1997 edition.
The new version includes a new index section called "Joy Classics" that contains 35 recipes from 1931-1975 and a new nutrition section.
Other Special Editions and Printings
In 1995, a hardbound edition illustrated by Ginnie Hofmann and Ikki Matsumoto was briefly released.
In 1998, a reproduction, described as "a perfect facsimile of that original 1931 edition," was released.
- Mendelson, Anne. Stand Facing The Stove: The Story Of The Women Who Gave America The Joy Of Cooking. Scribner, 1996.