Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Joy of Cooking: A Vertical Comparison

I have not one, not two, but three separate editions of The Joy of Cooking. The 1943, 1962, and revised 2006 editions. (The 1943 was my grandmother's.) Here's the thing: these are very different cookbooks. They're different sizes, with different recipes and illustrations. It's pretty interesting, actually. I pulled the three out to compare them, using a pretty standard recipe: chicken pot pie.

Here they are all on the shelf. Note the sizes, and the pretty battered condition of each of them.

And here are the Table of Contents pages from each edition:

1943's Table of Contents ran for several pages, so here's an excerpt. Note that there are sections for Frog Legs and Squirrel:

1962 gets simplified:

2006 has almost entirely different headings:

Neat, huh? Let's start with the 1943 edition. Here's the recipe for chicken pot pie:

It's short, sweet and to the point. Note that it assumes you already know how to make an appropriate gravy for chicken pot pie, and how to take apart a stewing chicken.

Here's another recipe from that edition:

There is no recipe for Jellied Pigs' Feet in the 2006 edition.

In the 1962 edition, the recipe for chicken pot pie gets a little longer:

Still short, but introduces the concept of pre-made pie shells. If we follow the instructions to the recipe for chicken hash, we find:

So this edition doesn't automatically assume the same level of knowledge from a home cook. Although, notably, it does have illustrations on how to skin squirrel and rabbit, which are also not repeated in the 2006 edition.

And it has instructions on rendering fat:

The 2006 edition has been almost completely rewritten and sanitized. No instructions on skinning and dressing game, no mention of lard, and it assumes no knowledge from a home cook. Look how much longer the recipe for chicken pot pie has gotten:

To make the chicken hash is another page and a half:

(And note first mention of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.)

That's why I have the three different editions. Because each one showcases a different approach to cooking. Obviously the 2006 edition is going to be the most useful for everyone now; I've said it before, if you only have one cookbook, get The Joy of Cooking. But if you ever get the opportunity, peruse the earlier editions.


  1. My edition has the skinning squirrels pics, but I think it came out in 1992.

    I like that one over the 2006 version because my family can't eat a lot of processed or convenience foods. My BHG cookbook drives me crazy sometimes with the "can of this" or "jar of that" instructions.

  2. That's so cool! I have two versions. Grandmother's (don't know date but its old), and My 2006. I rareley ever look at the older one but I might pop it open now and look at the comparison.

  3. I have the 2006 edition, and on page 525, there is a brief description with picture on skinning a rabbit/hare. But no, there are no mentions of squirrel!!

  4. Does anyone have a 1943 edition they would like to sell? Email me at