I’m going to be totally honest…
First, I’ve been horribly remiss in posting once a month about a favorite “can’t live without it” cookbook. This isn’t me just ignoring the blog (although I seem to be doing a fairly good job there too) but it’s because…well, I just don’t have 12 cookbooks I can’t live without. I have 12 cookbooks that like well enough for various reasons, but not 12 that I’d haul to a desert island with me (not quite sure what I’d do with them there anyway).
Which leads me to my second confession – this month’s book (which is really more like the cookbook of the summer if I’m still being honest), isn’t so much an all-time fav of mine as it is a classic “must have” that winds up on everyone’s best list.
Which doesn’t make it a bad book; it’s a great book! It’s incredibly comprehensive, and will give step-by-step instructions for skinning and cooking a whole squirrel (pg. 515) as well as telling you how to make icebox cookies (pg. 715*). The book is just fun to read through for the variety of stuff to make.
Thumbing through the book to write this post, it just occurred to me! This is the book that people turned to before there was an internet! A comprehensive index, nice illustrations, little stories and “how-to” explanations, chapters on knowing your ingredients and canning interspersed with the chapters on recipes – this book is the perfect info time-suck for the pre-digital age!
And the instructions are pretty detailed (much like a good blog post). Unlike a lot of other cookbooks that include what I’ll call more “obsolete” (just for lack of a better word – but people aren’t really running around eating tons of squirrel, are they? Maybe they are and I haven’t noticed…), Joy’s directions are well geared to a contemporary reader (like myself who has NO idea what a ‘lump’ of butter is) and if you really want to, this book will probably have you cooking up a decent and maybe even proper porcupine meatball (pg. 515) as well as The Pioneer Woman (she does stuff like that from memory right?).
If your tastes run to the more mundane, fear not, there are plenty of meatloaf (pg. 492), pecan pie (pg.653) and biscuit (pgs. 632-634!) recipes here as well, and they are all solid. Nothing crazy fancy, just regular old fare that will make almost everyone happy (except that cousin who only eats Ukrainian-Tuvaluvian fusion food, but don’t worry too much about that guy).
I think the best way to use this book…well, there are two best ways really. One is just for the fun of reading through it and seeing just how many things there are to cook. It’s great for inspiration and if you just want some kind of a green bean side dish or hearty supper, you’ll find something in here for sure.
The other way to use the book is as a first-time cook’s work book. While the more exotic stuff might be a bit much at first, it’s a solid and simple enough cookbook that it makes a good primer for a newbie. It’s often recommended as a first cookbook for the new home chef and there’s good reason. There is a lot to learn from the Joy of Cooking, and a lot of tastiness to be had for the learning. The book starts off with chapters on different types of foods (including a chart with calories and protein content), entertaining, and menus. Subsequent chapters contain types of dishes, like drinks, salads, egg dishes, griddle cakes and fritter variations, and on and on to give a nice thorough base knowledge of what someone might cook.
This is a very good book. It’s not the book I learned to cook with, but I sure can understand why it is the book that many use when they learn to cook. A highly recommended first comprehensive cookbook for anyone, and at the very least a fun read for the more experienced. A joy indeed!
Twelve Months of Cookooks Quick Recap:
The book: JOY OF COOKING
How long I’ve owned it: Way too long to remember – at least the late 80s
Three things I’ve made from it that always turn out, without fail: Pecan Pie – page 653, Hard Sauce – page 775, Pancakes – page 236