Joy of Cooking 1931 Facsimile Edition: A Facsimile of the First Edition 1931

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In 1931, Irma Rombauer announced that she intended to turn her personal collection of recipes and cooking techniques into a cookbook. Cooking could no longer remain a private passion for Irma. She had recently been widowed and needed to find a way to support her family. Irma was a celebrated St. Louis hostess who sensed that she was not alone in her need for a no-nonsense, practical resource in the kitchen. So, mustering what assets she had, she self-published The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat. Out of these unlikely circumstances was born the most authoritative cookbook in America, the book your grandmother and mother probably learned to cook from. To date it has sold more than 15 million copies.
This is a perfect facsimile of that original 1931 edition. It is your chance to see where it all began. These pages amply reveal why The Joy of Cooking has become a legacy of learning and pleasure for generations of users. Irma’s sensible, fearless approach to cooking and her reassuring voice offer both novice and experienced cooks everything they need to produce a crackling crust on roasts and bake the perfect cake. All the old classics are here — Chicken a la King, Molded Cranberry Nut Salad, and Charlotte Russe to name a few — but so are dozens of unexpected recipes such as Risotto and Roasted Spanish Onions, dishes that seem right at home on our tables today.
Whether she’s discussing the colorful personality of her cook Marguerite, whose Cheese Custard Pie was not to be missed, or asserting that the average woman’s breakfast was “probably fruit, dry toast, and a beverage” while the average man’s was “fruit, cereal, eggs with ham or bacon, hot bread, and a beverage,” the distinctive era in which Irma lived comes through loud and clear in every line. Enter a time when such dishes as Shrimp Wiggle and Cottage Pudding routinely appeared on tables across America.
The book is illustrated with the silhouette cutouts created by Irma’s daughter Marion, who eventually wrote later editions of The Joy of Cooking. Marion also created the cover art depicting St. Martha of Bethany, the patron saint of cooking, slaying the dragon of kitchen drudgery. This special facsimile edition contains both Irma’s original introduction and a completely new foreword by her son Edgar Rombauer, whose vivid memories bring Irma’s kitchen alive for us all today.
Suddenly Aunt Eunice is on the phone explaining, “Aunt Mabel won’t be with us for Christmas dinner, she’s taking a holiday cruise with her bridge club. So would you be a dear and bring the Cheese Custard Pie this year? The family sure loves that pie.” You ponder a moment and remember that the Cheese Custard Pie wasn’t half bad, a stout and hearty dish with heavy Midwestern overtones, a bit like Aunt Mabel, in fact. You’ve eaten the same pie every year for as long as you can remember, your parents ate the same pie, and chances are your grandparents got a little crazy and had a slice or two à la mode. Small wonder Mabel has been wowing the family with Cheese Custard Pie since 1931.

Warm fuzzy memories go suddenly bad when you realize that the success or failure of the family holiday has just been placed squarely upon your shoulders in the form of a dessert you haven’t a clue how to cook. Damn that bridge club! A quick call back to Aunt Eunice reveals, “It’s simple, honey, all you need is The Joy of Cooking.”

In 1931, Mrs. Irma von Starkloff Rombauer was newly widowed and in need of a way to support her family. The celebrated St. Louis hostess struck on the idea of turning her personal recipes and cooking techniques into a book. She self- published The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat, and the legend was born. Aunt Mabels everywhere related to Irma’s sensible, fearless approach to the culinary arts, and Chicken à la King, Risotto, and Roasted Spanish Onions found their way onto our tables. The Joy of Cooking quickly became a modern masterpiece, the stuff of legends, the foundation of family dinners everywhere.

This facsimile of the original 1931 edition offers ample proof why The Joy of Cooking, at 15 million copies and counting, remains one of the most popular cookbooks of all time. This is where it all began, and while her Shrimp Wiggle may not be in vogue anymore, a certain pie recipe just might save your family holiday. –Mark O. Howerton