One often finds neat things in used books. Prepping for an upcoming LitKids print, I ended up buying an old copy of that kitchen standby, The Joy of Cooking. This particular book was perfect, a 1952 edition with the cover no longer attached yet complete, relatively pristine pages inside. The pages will look excellent behind this print’s artwork – a saucy, lip-smackin’ cupcake.
Aside from providing great background for my print, there’s a lot more to this Joy of Cooking that reveals the attitudes of the ’50s. First off, the little illustrations that accompany the recipes are brilliant – stylized yet simple enough to convey what the instructions can’t. They remind me of Andy Warhol’s early stuff, although it’s not his (Warhol did illustrate a cookbook, once). The recipes themselves are pretty intriguing, as well, heavily reliant on fatty/rich ingredients and dishes that are meant to impress guests (including every kind of hors d’oeuvres imaginable). One fascinating part – probably not in the current edition – details how to prepare a live turtle for stew meat!
As with every other pre-owned book that I come by, I ponder the previous owner(s). Did they read and enjoy the book, or did it sit in a box, unloved for years and decades? Other than a few penciled-in notations and random stains in the dessert section (the part I needed!), there was little to indicate who had this Joy of Cooking. Somewhere along the line, however, a home cook decided to slip some intriguing bits of paper within — a couple of newspaper clippings and a handwritten list of ingredients. Not much to go on, right? But I love the little story these bits of paper tell. In 1985, somebody used this older copy of Joy of Cooking to help prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. The research included the “Better Living” section from a Rhode Island newspaper, The Bay Window, and a separate newspaper clipping with a Roast Stuffed Turkey recipe (by the way, the Window‘s ’80s food editor Lynda Rego is apparently still in Rhode Island, writing a genealogy column for a different newspaper). The book also has a hand-written list of ingredients on pink paper, for some kind of sugary dessert. Those bits of ephemera, and a few choice bits from the book, are pictured below. Bon appetit!