Kiss my Arsenal: The Joy of Cooking

So, as you join me on this little culinary journey I’m on, I thought I’d share you some of the tools I’ve been using. Since I’m immature and not terribly original, I’m calling it “Kiss My Arsenal.” First up is the little book that has helped me get going in the first place: Joy of Cooking.

I got this as a gift from my mom last Christmas. I’ve already outed my mom as a domestic goddess in my first post, and I think the gift was her way of giving me a little nudge in the right direction.

Below you’ll find a picture of the book, which my Sitch bobblehead was kind enough to model for me. You’ve probably seen it before, perhaps in your parents’ kitchen growing up. It is one of the most influential cookbooks in this country. It’s been around over 75 years and is in pretty much its millionth printing. In addition to traditional recipes from the first printing, the editors have added new recipes and information as American cooking has developed and changed over the last three quarters of a century. (And good gravy, has it changed.)

Joy of Cooking is a bit daunting at first, and not only because of its legacy. No pictures! Not a one! Instead it’s just completely packed with information, recipes, advice and historical context for the food and recipes in the book. It comes off as less of a cookbook and more of a textbook.

It is almost ridiculously informative and exceptionally organized, which is great for the beginner cook. It’s like the editors won’t let you get exasperated. They immediately refer to the page number for more information on any ingredient or technique that isn’t spelled out in a recipe. Before you have a chance to scream “Oh, like I’m supposed to have some mornay sauce just LYING AROUND,” you read “page 551″ and calm down just a little bit.

Joy of Cooking is organized by large, obvious chapters such as “Meat,” “Vegetables,” “Desserts,” and so on. Each chapter is then broken down into subcategories, like “Pork” or “Broccoli,” which starts off with general information on how to cook that thing and how it’s used in various dishes.

It definitely emphasizes whole ingredients and making things from scratch, and it’s a philosophy that I couldn’t help picking up for myself. And it’s contagious! Once you’ve made your own meatballs from start to finish, it feels kind of lame to toss them with marinara sauce from a jar.

A lot of the methods and dishes that I’ve been cooking, and hope to share with you all here, are based on things I’ve learned from Joy of Cooking. I can’t recommend it enough, nor can I properly describe the respect and admiration I have for all of the people who’ve worked on this book.

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