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Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition; 2006)

by Michael Chu
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It is hard to say whether or not there has been a book that has made a greater impact to American home cooking as the Joy of Cooking. This extraordinary cookbook that the New York Times has called "the Swiss Army knife of cookbooks" received a face lift late last year as the 75th Anniversary Edition was published. Does everyone need a copy of Joy of Cooking in their kitchen? Should you buy this edition if you have a previous one? The answer to both questions is a resounding "yes"!

There have been a total of eight versions of Joy of Cooking published since Irma Rombauer self-published her book of recipes collected from family, friends, and neighbors in 1931. Joy of Cooking was then picked up by a publisher and Irma expanded it from over 1,000 to over 2,500 recipes. By 1975, when the most successful and famous version of Joy of Cooking was published, over 4,500 recipes (and 1,000 illustrations) were part of the package. (Compare the number of recipes to the 1,000 that The New Best Recipe has or the 100-150 recipes that a Rachael Ray cookbook contains.)

In 1997, a completely revised version of Joy of Cooking was released that was more like a re-imagining of the original than an updated edition. There were both good and bad things about this version. A lot of topics were dropped from the previous edition while microwave ovens, food processors, and "exotic" ingredients were given appropriate attention. Unfortunately, the tone of the cookbook also changed. A multitude of authors contributed to the content and the personal voice of the prior editions had almost completely disappeared. Although it contains a great deal of information beyond recipes, it reads like a recipe book instead of the great all purpose resource on learning to cook that the Joy of Cooking name represents to so many. Another problem that I found with the 1997 edition is that some of the recipes were unreliable (such as the 14-in-1 master cookie recipe) -- a problem others have attributed to insufficient testing and relatively low standards of quality when preparing the 1997 edition (small wonder, with so many recipes to revise and test and a team that already spent over three years on the material). (My copy of the 1997 edition also had a weak binding causing pages to start becoming partially detached.)

The introduction of last year's 75th Anniversary Edition of Joy of Cooking has brought back the magic of the pre-1997 editions. This 2006 edition keeps the good parts of the 1997, but ditches a lot of the bad. Entire chapters that were missing from the previous edition have returned such as the section on canning and homemade ice cream. Gone is the 14-in-1 cookie recipe, replaced with a collection of individually tailored cookie recipes (which are hopefully better). Also new is a section on "cook for a day, eat for a week" (although only 2 half-pages are spent on this topic), sushi (1997 had one recipe for Japanese rice that mentions sushi, but doesn't tell you how to blend the vinegar; 2007 has expanded to cover sushi rice as well as maki sushi), extensive high-altitude discussions, and slow cooker recipes. The tone of the cookbook is also greatly improved making it much more readable than the 1997 version. Updated ingredient information and health and diet recommendations bring the Joy of Cooking up to the current prevailing theories.

As compared to the 1997 edition, the layout and font have been modernized. Making the book easier to reference while in the kitchen, a clean, crisp sans serif font replaces the old serifed ones. As a result, the signature method of listing ingredients (within the recipe procedures, indented, and bold) is much easier to spot and read. In addition, the introduction of symbols to highlight important principles and high-altitude tips makes it easier to find helpful pointers. The image shows the same recipe from both the 1997 (on the left) and the 2006 (on the right) editions to demonstrate the updated recipe style as well as typography design.

Naturally, if you don't have a copy of Joy of Cooking, you should pick up a copy of the 75th Anniversary Edition - it'll soon become your go to cookbook for finding the "standard" recipe for just about any dish you'd expect to be prepared in an American home. If you already have a previous edition, then this new edition is a great replacement/update (especially if you have the 1997 version).

Also, be sure to check Simon & Schuster's errata page for any misprints.

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Written by Michael Chu
Published on July 21, 2007 at 11:43 PM
14 comments on Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition; 2006):(Post a comment)

On July 22, 2007 at 02:19 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Link to the book
Since you gave the book a good review, you should put a link to the book in the article; I don't see any.

On July 22, 2007 at 02:46 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Link to the book
Anonymous wrote:
Since you gave the book a good review, you should put a link to the book in the article; I don't see any.

I can't believe I forgot to link to the books. I put in links to both the 2006 edition and the 1997 edition (don't buy this one, just look at the picture to help you identify if you own it...) into the article.

75th Anniversary Joy of Cooking (2006)
The All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking (1997)

On July 22, 2007 at 05:25 PM, Michael R. Bernstein (guest) said...
Subject: Typography
I have a spiral-bound facsimile edition of the '75 version. It's worth noting that the '97 version crappy typography was another gratuitous change, and that the 2006 typography seems a reinterpretation of the better '75 version.

On July 26, 2007 at 11:52 AM, Miss K (guest) said...
Great article. Do you know where I can buy the 1975 edition? I actually have one, but it is falling apart and some pages are missing.

On July 26, 2007 at 05:44 PM, dvchurch said...
Subject: Re: 1975 Edition

On August 14, 2007 at 03:04 PM, Good Cook (guest) said...
Subject: The Joy Kitchen
I suggest that all check out the website for the JOY family It has a great review of JOY history, recipes, a forum and much more.

On September 10, 2007 at 12:50 PM, David (guest) said...
Subject: Oh, Joy!
My wife and I got Joy of Cooking as a wedding gift (quite a few years ago now), and it's always been a great help. The peanut butter cookie recipe is perfect! I still remember that it says something like, "For those who dote on peanut butter cookies...." That's me!

On December 04, 2007 at 04:19 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I recently purchased the new edition of Joy of Cooking. Getting somewhat sick of most typical cookbooks which, while good, tend to present very specific versions of recipes. A simple beef stew? Nah the typical cookbook gives you beef stew with glazed carrots and ginger (okay not really, that sounds not so tasty). I haven't actually had a chance to make anything from Joy of Cooking yet but reading through it, it seems to provide plenty of 'general' recipes. Recipes that are simple enough to provide a cook with a base recipe that can easily be customized once the basic recipe is understood. Yeah. I'm going to keep this one handy.

On December 06, 2007 at 07:58 PM, BchrisL said...
We have had the Joy of Cooking for a long time. It is a touchstone of cookbooks. A standard reference. I reccomend it to anyone who wants to learn to cook from scratch. I have made many things from its pages, and have never been disappointed.

On December 10, 2007 at 11:40 AM, jeremyll33 said...
Wow, by coincidence I have started to buy organiy meat from a nearby Bavarian farm, and the lady who runs it is American who has been in Germany since 1953. She lent me her original 1954 edition which I fin fascinating. Although a Brit I find many recipes in common with us in Britain so am reading lots of it at the moment.

On February 09, 2008 at 10:24 AM, mtreadwell (guest) said...
Subject: stand?
Any suggestion on where to find a cookbook stand that can hold this monster? I'm tired of propping it up in an unused loaf pan (and spattering on the pages)...

On February 13, 2008 at 04:03 PM, MADCookie said...
Subject: Make a copy
Regarding the stand, I always make a copy of the recipe before I create the dish. I am fortunate to have a photo copied printer at home, so it is easy enough to stick a magazine or book on the machine and copy the recipe.

On January 06, 2009 at 06:09 PM, vivalaleta (guest) said...
Subject: Joy of Cooking
For those of you who DOTE on peanut butter cookies....try these rich and crumbly ones! THE best p.b. cookies ever and so many great American recipes. So many of my old cookbooks went out of fashion but not this one!

On January 07, 2009 at 09:34 AM, Dilbert said...
I found a neat design for a kitchen bookholder - mine is wood, but the design is essentially the same as:

if your layout permits a "good spot" it a boon - works for JOC - but the "oversized" formats don't fit on the platform.

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