Friday, October 30, 2009

Joy to the World

One hundred and thirty-two years ago today, in 1877, Irma Rombauer, author of The Joy of Cooking, was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

What is arguably the most famous cookbook of all time began in 1931, when Rombauer, at fifty-three, self-published her collection of family recipes, calling it The Joy of Cooking.

(Fowl & Game chapter from the 1931 self-published Joy of Cooking)

A few years later while playing bridge at her cousin's house in Indianapolis, Irma met Lawrence Chambers, president of the publishing house Bobbs-Merrill. Chambers admired Rombauer's work, bought Joy of Cooking, and Bobbs-Merrill published the book in 1936.

The book was so successful that Bobbs-Merrill published an enlarged and revised edition in 1943 which Rombauer wrote with her daughter Marion Rombauer-Becker. A third edition of Joy was published three years later in 1946. And in 1951, the first Joy of Cooking edition to credit Marion as co-author was published. Many more mother/daughter revisions followed. In 1997 Irma's grandson, and Marion's son, Ethan Becker, was added to the co-author string, when the All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking was published. Most recently, in 2006, the seventy-fifth anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking was released, and so the family tradition continues to this day, forty-seven years after Irma's death.

For a fascinating look at the Rombauer's, I highly recommend Anne Mendelson's wonderful book Stand Facing the Stove. To view older copies of Joy, the New York Public Library is fortunate to have the original 1931 self-published Joy, plus the first edition 1936 Bobbs-Merrill Joy, and many other editions too.

So happy birthday to a woman who truly brought Joy to the World.


Deborah Dowd said...

Honestly,my most cherished cookbook is a very dogeared and stained version that a beloved former neighbor gave me. Just looking at that cookbook gives me joy. Great post!

Diana said...

i have my mom's, which i think was her mom's. duct tape holds the spine and penciled notes are written throughout.
my go-to cookbook for chocolate chip cookies, blueberry pancakes, and crepes!!