Recently I picked up a copy of the Joy of Cooking. I knew about this little book, but I had never read it. The paperback cover told me this is volume one, main dishes. It noted that there is a second volume. The forward says "This is America's bestselling basic cookbook of all time. .Everything needed for the success of a recipe is clearly explained and illustrated."
The index is adequate. It is easy to find things. A calorie chart is provided allowing cooks to balance their meals and track calorie intake if they wish. There is even an extensive section on coffee even recommending the best type of water to use.
When I checked out the casserole section I could not believe there was no recipe for goulash. I looked again. Maybe they called the dish something else. Then again, maybe this book did not have the simple things that I was looking for. Upon closer inspection this is certainly an inaccurate conclusion. There are many common ordinary dishes in this cookbook.
The details about the copyright indicate that the first book was published in 1931. Since then there have been at least a dozen more with it going to paperback in 1974.
This book was compiled by a mother/daughter team. In the book dedication the daughter shared how her relationship with her mother for her and her husband was strengthened by this endeavor. What a unique relationship they must have had. It was a chance for her husband to become intimately acquainted with his mother-in-law as well.
Cookbooks represent history. When I find cookbooks at an estate sale I look for the ones that show the most wear rather than the ones that look the best. The books that were used the most hold the key to the food history of that family.
Old cookbooks often have approximate measurements such as pinch of this, a dash of that. When you attempt to replicate that recipe you go by taste. You add what your family prefers.
When I got married I came with a love for cooking. First, I cooked for my mother. She arrived home from work later than I finished school so I was responsible for cooking supper. This was not a hardship for me. I enjoyed cooking. I thought I brought more than adequate knowledge of cooking to my marriage.
I found out however, that I did not cook like my mother-in-law so my husband was not enthused with my cooking. I was the butt of many jokes and much teasing for years. I must admit that I did not take the criticism kindly. It made me mad when my husband pointed out my inadequacies especially when he did it in front of others.
The kids who worked for us did not complain. They were happy for a big meal. Haying was a social time for them, a chance to eat someone else's cooking instead of their mom's. We fed the people who worked for us in those days. My cooking cannot have been that bad because there were few leftovers after a haying meal.
The years have passed and my cooking has improved. Maybe I just learned to cook to my husband's taste. In the end he praised the meals that I fixed, but he never really ate with relish. I have come to the conclusion that he was probably a "non-taster". I heard this term used on a television program. People who are non-tasters do not really care if they eat. My husband, his father, and our daughter are like that. They eat more because they have to than because they want to. I definitely do not fit into this category (unfortunately) and neither does my son. We like to eat and we both like to cook. Our figures show it as well although neither of us is morbidly obese since we both get a lot of exercise.
The cooks in the family need to be aware of how food influences family health. "To present these essential nutrients in the very best state for the body's absorption is the cook's first and foremost job," says the Joy of Cooking. "Usually taste, flavor, and color at their best reflect a job well done."
Being the family cook is a huge responsibility. I find that using fresh ingredients helps. The new measure of health these days is "My Plate". I like this concept better than the pyramid that was used previous to this. My grandson looks at his plate to see if he has what he is supposed to when he eats here. He knows that half of the plate should be fruit and vegetables. That is definitely to his liking. The other half should provide protein and grains. Milk accompanies the balanced meal. He tells me when he eats in school he does not have a balanced meal I suspect they count some items that should not be counted. Of course, the children have a choice so the fault may be there instead.
I found a recipe for ravioli that I definitely will try in my issue of the Joy of Cooking. You make both the pasta and the filling. I have a round ravioli cutter, but I just may try to make the square type since it sounds easier.
At any rate the book was a really good read; however, I suggest that you read it when you are full!
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at email@example.com