Sunday, August 06, 2006

"Joy of Cooking" still cooks!

Did you happen to see the article in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review titled Backlist to the Future by Rachel Donadio (July 30, 2006)? I was drawn to it by the fact that the title made me curious since my friend, T. Coraghessan Boyle (author of the short story from which both my blog and I take our names), has all of his many short story collections and novels still in print and on Viking/Penguin's backlist.

What really struck me about Ms. Donadio's piece was how important an individual book can be business-wise for publishers. In this specific case it was:
The backlist can also drive business acquisitions. Simon & Schuster bought McMillan in 1994 partly for its backlist, which included "The Joy of Cooking." The cookbook's heavily updated 1997 edition has sold 1.7 million copies. (Several earlier editions also remain in print.)

If anyone ever asked what book I consider to be my "bible" of cooking it would have to be "Joy." From the first copy I received from Santa back in 1970, to the new, updated edition of 1997, "Joy" has seen me through all the mysteries of cooking, from timing of cooking various meat and fish parts through searching for substitutions of ingredients and much, much more. Its little red ribbon bookmark, so conveniently and thoughtfully attached to the book, serves as a memory marker for my last adventure. And the recipe for Blackberry Jam Cake (with its beautiful lavender batter) with Caramel Icing can't be beat!

"The Joy of Cooking" has special meaning to Cincinnati area cooks because its authors, Irma Rombauer and her daughter, Marian Rombauer Becker, are Cincinnatians. Their home, the house that "Joy" built, was referred to as "Cockaigne" which Wikipedia describes as "the land of Cockaigne was a fictional utopia, a place where, in a parody of paradise, idleness and gluttony were the principal occupations." Marian Becker was one of three women who, in 1939, founded Cincinnati's Modern Art Society which later became The Contemporary Arts Center. Her son Ethan is the co-author, along with Marian Cunningham, of the 1997 revision. Ironically, in a six-degrees-of-separation-kind-of-way, my former next door neighbor, a very nice guy who now lives with his wife in a log cabin in the country and has survivalist tendencies, is friends with Ethan Becker because they both like to make their own knives!


Blogger Garrett said...

Glad to hear you are doing better! I loved Joy, but I lost my copy when I moved (I think my evil ex-roomie stole it). I need to get a new copy still.

4:27 PM  

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