The Joy of The Joy of Cooking

My copy of The Joy of Cooking is the 1997 version. There’s a simple reason for this: I was working at Simon & Schuster that year. There are few perks in publishing but a key one was free books. I think everyone in my family got a copy of that book for Christmas that year.

There’s a new version coming out this year. The WSJ has a wonderful piece {paywall} about it as the cover of their Off Duty section. This newest edition is overseen by John Becker, the great-grandson of Irma Rombauer, the author of the first edition.

Cookbooks are one of the rare bright spots in publishing (another is children’s books). People still buy cookbooks. This is true even while recipes remain one of the most popular offerings of the internet. (When I was at iVillage the three most popular search terms were sex, chicken and pregnancy. I’ll let you make of that what you will.) But how long will it remain true? And what will be lost when we cede every last bit of our lives to the hive mind?

Mr. Becker’s wife, Megan Scott, makes the point that Joy is for everyone not just trying to figure out what to cook, but how. “We’ve done so much research to find the right answers and get the best information we can get,” she tells WSJ. “The algorithm isn’t picking out the right answer [but] the most popular one.”

I still use my copy of Joy pretty regularly. When I’m looking for the “right” version of nearly any recipe it is usually my first stop. (My second is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.) As we near the end of 2019 the publication of a new Joy feels hopeful to me. There is still a place for authority and expertise. There are still right answers. We can debate what the right answer is — but if you are debating the right way to cook a turkey maybe we can start by at least considering the expertise of the guy who has roasted a lot of them using every method to arrive at the optimal one.

My, how precious!

Today’s New York Times business page had a piece about artisanal chocolate. Now I love chocolate as much as the next gal, if not more, but does everything need to be so, well, precious?

This is part of a bigger trend. First, there was wine. It wasn’t enough to know that red went with meat and white went with fish. No, no, no. You had to know about vintages. Regions. Soil. How much sun France saw that year. Sure, there are good wines and bad wines (and really, really good wines and really, really bad wines). But, it starts to feel a little like a fetish after a while, no?

But, okay, I mean wine has been made and drunk this way for centuries.

Then came coffee. Tea. Olive oil. Vinegar. Mustard.

And now, chocolate. Do we need this stress? Isn’t this why we eat chocolate — for a bit of simple, sweet succor? What is simple about this: "Pop the first half into your mouth, and chew it to check the taste and texture. Then pay attention to the aftertaste. Next, try the other half and see if the flavor changes." I want dessert, not the palate equivalent of an IQ test.

I’d prefer my food minus the side of precious, thanks.

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Bigger Tic Tacs, Smaller Big Macs

A few days ago I wrote about the new, 1.9 calorie Tic Tacs and the indication that the super size trend was without end.

Well, perhaps not. In fact, McDonald’s — the inventers of the term, if not the trend — announced Wednesday that it is doing away with gargantuan portions.

Does this signal a reversal of the trend toward mega-portions and instead toward a more rational approach to food?

I think it’s much too early to know. It’s worth remembering that Americans live in a toxic food environment, no less so, ultimately, because a a fast food chain serves us a handful fewer fries. But, the optimist in me has to see this as a hopeful sign that the trend is, if not quite reversing, at least changing.

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Why Americans Are Fat

I was recently in a supermarket in Florida and I noticed the Tic Tac display.  Tic Tacs, I learned, are now 30% larger, for "More Enjoyable Freshness."  (No, I don’t know what that means either.)

Like most Gen Xers, I grew up with Cherly Tiegs extolling the virtues of the "1 1/2 calorie breath mint."  So, of course, the first thing I did was flip the box over to scrutinize the nutrition information.  These new, bigger mints now have 1.9 calories.  Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, eh?

Ok, sure, no one is getting fat from an extra .4 calorie per Tic Tac.  (Has anyone ever eaten fewer than a handful anyway?)  But it’s part of an overall super-sizing trend that simply isn’t good for us.  I keep thinking the pendulum is going to swing in the opposite direction — micro-portions or something.  Instead, every few months I see a new, and frankly more absurd, example of the "if some is good, lots is great" ethos.  But bigger Tic Tacs might just take the cake (which we undoubtedly will have and eat.)

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