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Stand Facing the Stove: The Story of the Women Who Gave America The Joy of Cooking Paperback – May 6, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743229398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743229395
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,730,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

In 1930 Irma Rombauer's husband killed himself, and to help make ends meet she decided to write a cookbook. The Joy Of Cooking was initially self-published, but went on to sell 14 million copies over 60 years, and became the most influential American cookbook of all time. The crucial factor in this unexpected success was Rombauer's lively voice as an unpretentious amateur. America's home cooks were desperate for down-to-earth instruction and they could relate to Rombauer's strong personality. Anne Mendelson chronicles Rombauer's life and work and that of her daughter, later co-author and successor, Marion Rombauer Becker. She offers too a view of the evolution of American cooking from the mid-19th century onward, and of the impact of Rombauer's joyful contribution. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

When St. Louis housewife Irma von Starkloff Rombauer (1877-1962) self-published The Joy of Cooking in 1931, she was, at age 54, a total amateur in the kitchen. Indianapolis publisher Bobbs-Merrill helped make her cookbook a huge bestseller in its subsequent editions. Whereas Rombauer brought a homespun, spontaneous style to her recipes, her daughter, Maron Rombauer Becker (1903-1976), who collaborated on Joy starting with the 1948 revision, transformed it into an all-purpose learning tool and also imbued it with health-food consciousness. By following Joy's successive incarnations as well as rival manuals, Mendelson, a culinary historian and freelance writer, serves up a delightful social history of Americans' changing cooking and eating habits. She sets Rombauer's German-American roots in the context of a thriving Midwestern immigrant community and also unravels both her and her daughter's tangled, acrimonious relationship with Bobbs-Merrill. Mendelson's narrative is enlivened by numerous personal stories: the suicide in 1930 of Rombauer's manic-depressive husband, Edgar, a civil rights lawyer; Becker's championing of modernist art and her crusading for affordable housing in Cincinnati; her often tense relationship with her mother, who criticized her plain looks; and her steadfast, loving care for her mother, who suffered repeated strokes, even as she herself fought the cancer to which she eventually succumbed. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Jones ( on July 9, 1998
Format: Hardcover
STAND FACING THE STOVE, is a robust volume (475 pages)detailing the life and work of Irma Rombauer and Marion Robauer Becker, the mother-daughter team responsible for writing the JOY OF COOKING, America's best-loved recipe and cookery reference book. STAND FACING THE STOVE will change your way of viewing cookbooks and the publishing process forever. The book took a decade to write, and author, Anne Mendelson, has done a thorough job of tracing the complex history of the writers' families, and JOY's life from it's inception in the early 1930's through the mid-'70's when daughter, Marion, dies. Presented is a fascinating insider's look at the culinary fads and trends that have defined our eating habits through four decades. JOY, which has sold over 10 million copies in its long and enduring history, was far less than joyous for the Rombauer clan than the ebullient light-hearted tone of the cookbook would belie. There were rancorous feuds with JOY's former publisher, the now-defunct Bobbs-Merrill Company. As a cookbook and recipe collector (WRITE ME!), I found Mendelson's book fascinating, but so complexly verbalized that it demanded being red in short fits and spurts. The book does provide valuable insights into the lives of the writers, their "magnum opus," and the terrible tension that existed between the publisher's self-interests, and the writers' unrelenting quest for ever more perfect expressions of their work. Sadly, Bobbs-Merrill refused to allow Mendelson access to the correspondence and records that would have shed even greater light on their publisher feud that fueled a long and embittered battle.Read more ›
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Joy Of Cooking was my first cookbook given to me by my mother. And reading the recipe as it were, as how it all came about is quite compelling.
Take one family--the St. Louis Rombauers--from good German stock. Add a 1931 vanity printing of Mrs. Rombauer's mostly unexceptional recipes: molded fruit salads, Kitchen Bouquet-colored gravies, things involving canned soup. Watch this collection rise into a successful commercial volume, leavened by its idiosyncratic voice (comparing a "vegetable plate, unadorned" to Gandhi's bald head, the amateur chef recommended a sprig of parsley). Throw in a contentious author-publisher relationship, plus daughter Marion Rombauer Becker's reluctant inheritance of her mother's legacy, and a delicious story forms.
Mendelson, who writes for Gourmet, discusses this most definitively American kitchen manual with measured but contagious relish. Like The Joy of Cooking, her closely researched work will be many things to many people. It's publishing history, intimate biography, and a record of changing national tastes--a practically foolproof repast.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on April 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've used the Joy of Cooking since childhood and was very interested in the history behind the book and the family that has produced it for over 75 years. Also interesting is the peek into the internal workings of the publishing industry. Though changed and changing with eReaders and the Internet, I suspect that the epic battles described between authors and publishers will go on for quite some time.

My main criticism is the length. I love a good long book, but I suspect that all the same facts and analysis could have been presented with about 30-40% less text.
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