I was doing laundry at Doris and Ian's house the other day. While waiting for the washer to finish (what a luxury!), I spied an old copy of The Joy of Cooking on a kitchen bookshelf. What young bride in America didn't have a copy of The Joy of Cooking at some point in her married career? I remember getting a copy as a gift on my first anniversary … a not-so-subtle hint, I think. Seeing it on a shelf in Africa, however, brought back many memories. I started thumbing through.
The Joy of Cooking was originally self-published by an entrepreneurial young widow, Irma Rombauer in 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression. The daughter of a German immigrant family, she sold copies of her recipe collection out of her apartment in St. Louis, until an expanded edition was published in 1936 by the Bobbs-Merrill Company. The rest is history. Irma's daughter worked with her in the compilation of new editions and the “Joy business” has now been handed down to Irma's grandkids and great-grandkids. What a legacy! This cookbook is considered one of the premier cookbooks in the USA and has been revised constantly to reflect changes in the times. No more Depression era cooking where shortages and substitutions were key considerations for any recipe.
Ian's copy was given to him by a Peace Corps worker and it was an early 1970s vintage. It was quite a trip back in time to read it as I waited. Some recipes were actually of interest like Mulligatawny soup, which I think I'll try in the near future, and chicken tetrazzini and an eggless, milkless spice cake which required beer! Calf brain fritters, and the preparation of raccoon, beaver tail, bear and woodchuck were not of interest … mostly because the fresh ingredients would not be available as we sailed (as if!). I was particularly enthralled by the illustration of skinning a squirrel. I'd never really gotten the knack of that and now know that I should have employed my foot to aid in the process. Duh!
There were helpful hints throughout like how to poach eggs without a mold or prepare a Parkin, a traditional cake for celebrating Guy Fawkes Day. I learned about new veggies like cardoons (in the thistle family like artichokes) and how to prepare fern shoots and fresh bracken. The instructions for preparing skirrets were very specific.
I enjoyed reading about creating a birthday bread horse and Easter bunny biscuits. Shucks … David's birthday was in July and Easter's not for another seven or eight months. Well, maybe next year.
The proper serving of beer and ale and other alcoholic beverages was interesting. Temperature, using the correct glasses and recipes for highballs and rickeys were all part of the discussion … which made me think grabbing a bottle of the local beer out of the bilge storage and handing it to someone was probably not the proper way to handle things. I need to give this some thought in the future.
Well, the laundry finished, I hung it out on the clothesline and returned to the kitchen table for a bit more Joy. Though there were no recipes for zebra, gemsbok or kudu (thank, goodness), there seems to be a place for Joy of Cooking in most every kitchen … even in Namibia.
The Joy of Cooking is still available on Amazon, but I doubt you'll get directions for squirrel skinning.