At the beginning of this week I proclaimed my love of The Joy of Cooking and listed the five reasons it remains an important and relevant addition to my cookbook shelves. I totally agree with cook and writer Samin Nosrat who recently said that The Joy is "like a security blanket, Google, and your grandmother wrapped into one."
Still, on occasion I run into a recipe or a method that has me scratching my head. Here are five examples of things I will probably never cook from The Joy of Cooking.
It’s important to note that these examples are from the 1975 edition. The Joy was updated in the 1990s, but since that edition was quite controversial (I rather like it) many people still use their 1975 edition, or even one of the earlier ones. There is also a 2006 75th anniversary edition which claims to be more faithful to the older editions, but I cannot comment on it since I do not own it.
1. Potatoes Cooked in Resin
It appears, from reading the headnotes, that this is something you would eat after an hour of skiing or skating. Besides one large baking potato per person, you will also need a large iron kettle, 10 to 25 pounds of resin, and I assume some sort of out-of-doors fire. Boil the resin, add the potatoes, fish them out when they are done, and roll them in thick brown paper.
It’s all worth it because this method is singular in its ability to "turn out a potato with distinctive flakiness." Cold ale is recommended as a chaser.
2. Chicken in Batter
This is, I assume, The Joy’s deep-fried chicken recipe and it is not the best, or most thorough, one I’ve seen. You basically just dip chicken pieces in fritter batter, leave them to dry for 15 minutes, and then deep-fry them. I’m not saying that this might not be good, but in my opinion, truly delicious fried chicken is a much different recipe.
However, this did lead me to something I will try. The chicken recipe instructed me to turn to the fritter batter section (yes, there are more than two pages devoted to different kinds of fritter batter), so I dutifully rifled back, and there I discovered Blooms in Batter! Simply dip unsprayed elderberry, squash, pumpkin, lilac, yucca, or hemerocallis blooms in fritter batter and fry away. The Rombauers say this is chichi and I would be inclined to agree.
3. Mock Chicken Drumsticks … made with veal
A nod back to the days when veal was popular and even further back to a time when it was less costly than chicken. The method involves cubing beef and veal and mushing it about on skewers until it resembles a drumstick. Bread crumbs, boiling stock, and pan gravy are also involved.
4. The Game Section
I’m a little reluctant to call out this section that features critters we can catch in our own backyards because you never know what will become popular again. However, while rabbit can occasionally be found on the menu and some people have even started raising them for meat, it may be a while until we see squirrel, porcupine, raccoon, opossum, beaver, muskrat, and armadillo on our dining room tables. Maybe I have this wrong?
5. Horehound Candy
What is a horehound and where can you buy one these days? OK, all joking aside, I do know that horehound candies are often used for sore throats but it seems to me this is one of those things to buy at Walgreens and not make at home. Although, come to think of it, I did recently spy an artisanal line of Horehound Throat Drops at my local reclaimed-wood-clad apothecary shop ...
Bonus entry: The Tropical Exotics section
While some of these "exotic" fruits are actually more commonplace these days (kiwi and passion fruit for instance), there are a few puzzlers here. Take the akee, for example, which is the only fruit in this section to have its own recipe. It sounds delicious but it opens with a very alarming disclaimer: " ... unless it has ripened to the point of voluntary opening, it is a deadly poison. No overly ripe, fallen, discolored, or unripe fruit dare be eaten, and the greatest care must be used to remove all seeds before cooking, as these are always poisonous." Perhaps this explains why I can’t find them at my local Safeway.
I also doubt that kiwis would have earned their popularity if we peeled and poached them and garnished them with kirsch, as instructed later in the section. Nor does it really work to "remove the hairs by hand-friction."
Again, I am a true-blue fan of The Joy of Cooking, so I hope this focus on the occasional odd and out-of-date entry doesn’t give the impression that I have nothing less than the deepest love and respect for this essential cookbook. Besides, since "everything old is new again," it’s very possible that this list will flip and one day you will find yourself hauling an iron pot onto an open fire to boil up some yummy, flaky resin and potatoes.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker