Mary Ellen and I were in the middle of spring cleaning (we do it every three or four years) when I found a book in the back of the storage closet that I thought Mary Ellen could benefit from.
I retrieved the book from a dusty shelf and placed it on the kitchen counter, as a subtle hint.
“What’s with this, Dick? After 42 years of marriage, I don’t think I need a refresher course in this area. True, I never really enjoyed the process, but I expected you to participate more than you have.”
“Mary Ellen, the book is ‘The Joy of Cooking.’ Not ‘The Joy of Cleaning.’”
Apparently, Mary Ellen inherited this volume from her mother. First published in 1931, this was the l936 release, with 800 pages and hundreds of recipes. It’s actually a collector’s item. I skimmed the pages and was disappointed to discover there were no photos showing what it looks like when steps are followed properly. Does “The Joy of Sex” have photos like that? No clue.
The first chapter in this kitchen essential is about cocktails. Here’s what the author, Irma Rombauer, wrote: “Cocktails loosen tongues and unbutton reserves of the socially shy … and they should be served the sooner the better.” This is no longer considered good advice — especially if you are a flight attendant.
In the poultry and game chapter, here is a snippet of the introduction: “Draw out the entrails, cut the neck close to the body, remove the windpipe end, then chop off the feet.” As you can tell, this book was also a big hit with serial killers.
The fish chapter begins by saying the key to a good dinner party is the proper preparation. I’m not sure whether the author refers to preparing the fish or the guests, but I’ll be ready either way. “I hope you enjoy the blowfish, which is poisonous if not cooked properly. Just in case, be advised you might experience violent stomach pain, convulsions, and possible death.”
One section references people retiring to the drawing room after the meal. First of all, if people are retiring at your party, you need to liven things up with a stripper or the Chippendales, to celebrate. And what’s a drawing room? The only guy I know personally with one of those is the cartoonist Gary Varvel.
Doesn’t this, taken right from the book, sound like it could be the climax scene from the original movie “The Thing”? “When it comes to vegetables, cooks often suffer from arrested development,” says Irma, “and the result is indescribable, looking like it came from a siege, drained of all life force and surrendered to the inevitable.”
When Irma finished writing “The Joy of Cooking,” her husband, Edgar, had an idea. He told Irma that if she made every dish he would taste them all, but she had to cook them in alphabetical order, as listed in the index. This was the perfect publicity stunt, he thought, but it was doomed to ultimately fail before the very last meal. Edgar, you see, was allergic to zucchini.