Years ago, on my wedding, I was gifted not one but two copies of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker.I gave one away and kept the other as it had greater sentimental value, coming from a dear friend of mine, Rani, who is a super and a happy cook.
In them thar distant days I could not cook anything beyond cornbread and scones, rice in a rice cooker and very rigid chapathis. Other activities and interests outside the kitchen took most of my time.
Several years passed before I opened the covers of what has proved to be one of my most referred to cook books.
Its condition today is testimony to the use it has been put to.Minus a spine,falling apart, stained with milk and flour, eggs and other ,now hard to identify, ingredients.
You may wonder how it helped to have a book which had recipes for American and European food when presumably I cooked only Indian food.
It began with me checking out how to recognise ingredients and how to deal with them. With a wonderful section called " Know your ingredients" I was able to identify different vegetables, how to cut them and how much they should be cooked before being edible. Lots about herbs,about oils, beans, cheeses, fats, curds,flours and lastly about substitutes...all invaluable information at a time when things like dark cooking chocolate,sour cream, ricotta, and a million other ingredients were not available in India.
With lovely little sketches to illustrate everything from making citrus zests to croutons this 100 page section taught me so much.
The book was also an introduction to cuts of meat, and had much about poultry and fish. Living, as I did , close to Sassoon Docks the shellfish chapter was great for a person who had little to no knowledge of how to prepare crabs, lobster and prawns.
My favourite part was the breads and coffee cakes chapter which I still dip into all the time.The weights and measures pages made it possible to cook anything I wanted to, changing quarts into litres and ounces into grams, in days without the internet to answer every question. I still enjoy poring over parts of the book and love its ' cooking from scratch ' methods.No "packet of this'" or "tin of that" sullies its pages.
I think what I liked best was the fact that almost every recipe I tried, succeeded. There is nothing so off putting as initial failures in the kitchen. It can put a stop to all endeavours if you are impatient like me.
My daughter has learned to love cooking making a beginning with this book, as a text where she had to refer to no one to find out what she wanted,least of all her mother. A new updated edition of "The Joy Of Cooking" was her engagement present. I know it will stand her in good stead all her life, especially in this new world where global food and new tastes are a reality but good old fashioned food made with your own hands never goes out of style.