My brother and I had often urged her to put into systematic order the underlying directives of a personal cuisine which had long since excited far more than a neighborhood appreciation. It was at this juncture, partly to comply, chiefly to distract her keen unhappiness, that she decided to spend another summer in Michigan, taking with her, needless to say, the mimeographed sheaf of recipes she had compiled, some eight years before, for the Women's Alliance.Rombauer's biographer Anne Mendelson, in her book Stand Facing the Stove: The Story of the Woman Who Gave America The Joy of Cooking, has a less romantic explanation:
It was not a terribly pracical plan, but it matched her view of her position in society. The idea that gradually took shape in her mind was the simplest thing that could be jammed between a pair of endpapers by a woman of minimal formal education and little trained ability of any sort: a cookbook.Whatever the case, within a year, Rombauer had assembled 500 recipes and published the book herself in St. Louis. It cost her $3,000, or approximately half her savings. The Joy of Cooking took what was then a novel approach to cookbook-writing, long the preserve of home economists who were more concerned with the science of food than with cooking it. (They were actually quite fascinating; to learn more, read Laura Shapiro's excellent book Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century.) Writes Rombauer's grandson Ethan Becker in the book's 75th anniversary edition:
A complete amateur with no official credentials, [Rombauer] nonetheless knew that neophyte cooks somehow learn faster in the company of a friend. This small, chic, witty and immensely forceful woman appointed herself that friend.The Joy of Cooking took a refreshingly commonsense approach. Its very first instruction: "Stand facing the stove." (This directive, sadly, seems to have been eliminated from the most recent edition, which came out in 2006.)
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