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Joys of Cooking With Rombauer’s Classic

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Amy Adams as "Julie Powell" and Chris Messina as "Eric Powell" in Columbia Pictures' JULIE & JULIA.

Amy Adams as "Julie Powell" and Chris Messina as "Eric Powell" in Columbia Pictures' JULIE & JULIA.

The struggles of blogger-turned-author Julie Powell soon will be viewed in movie form by millions as “Julie & Julia” is released.

The book, subtitled “365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen” describes Powell’s struggles to master every recipe in Julia Child’s “The Art of French Cooking” in a year. She chronicled her mission in a blog that soon amassed a huge following.

Thirty years prior to this 1961 edition of Child’s masterpiece being published, Irma S. Rombauer, an excellent home cook, self-published what would become another classic, “The Joy of Cooking.”

Rombauer’s book, illustrated by her daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker, began at the request from her children. They’d asked her to make a record of “what Mother used to make,” she says in the preface of the 1943 edition. Her friendly but firm voice, plus recipes that worked, made the book a trusted kitchen companion in the decades that followed.

“The Joy of Cooking” is the cookbook John Griffin and I open up again and again when we need to double-check the time and temperature for cooking a roast or the correct technique for making muffins. (“Make no attempt to stir or beat out the lumps. Ignore them,” were Rombauer’s words.)

Amy Adams as "Julie Powell" in Columbia Pictures' JULIE & JULIA.

Amy Adams as "Julie Powell" in Columbia Pictures' JULIE & JULIA.

My book is the 1943 edition, which wasn’t in good shape when I purchased it in 1973 at a used bookstore in Tucson. After 10 years of use, it became so battered that a friend who worked at a library took it away with her to repair. But, it was beyond her skills, so she mailed it to a professional bookbinder. It came back looking quite spiffy. The cover was replaced by a fresh one of generic medium blue. The bookbinder trimmed the tattered, stained edges of the pages, making the book look better and the pages easier to turn.

Glancing over the preface to my book I came across a sentence that sounded eerily contemporary, as we, nearly 80 years later, struggle through an economic downturn. (What they called a “depression” back then.)

“When the revision of this book began a year ago we had no intimation that international obligations would lead our land of plenty to ration cards. It now goes to print with a number of emergency chapters added, written to meet the difficulties that beset the present-day cook,” wrote Rombauer in her preface.

Over the years, were they ones of poverty or plenty, our cookbook collections have grown. We’ve reached out to new culinary frontiers and turned to other books with regularity. However, “The Joy of Cooking,” with its harmonious blend of fact and homey wisdom, will always ensure its prominent place on our bookshelves.

Cecil and John have also written related articles on other cookbooks that have inspired memorable meals.


Clam Griddle Cakes

[amazon-product]0743246268[/amazon-product]1 cup sour cream
1 egg
3/4 cup minced clams, cooked or canned
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda

Beat together well the sour cream and egg.  Add clams and mix. Sift the flour, then resift with the salt and soda. Combine dry and liquid ingredients with a few swift strokes. Bake cakes on an oiled griddle until browned on both sides.

Makes 4 servings.

“The Joy” of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer

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