© 2012 The Joy of Cooking Trust and the MRB Revocable Trust
A St. Louis native with deep European roots, Irma was active in civic clubs and cultural organizations. She was renowned for her hospitality and ability to whip up a little something in no time at all. She relished putting odds and ends together to make a satisfying and tasty meal. Oddly enough, she was not known for her culinary prowess as much as her aptitude for quick preparations that allowed her to spend less time in the kitchen and more time socializing. She was, however, an excellent baker. The Rombauer Special, a light chocolate cake with sweet seven-minute frosting and an alluring chocolate drizzle, was a necessary element of the late John Becker's birthdays. It can still be found in JOY.
When she was widowed in the late twenties, she took half of the money she was left and published 3000 copies of The Joy of Cooking. In 1936, her first edition produced with Bobbs Merrill publishers was introduced nationwide...and the rest is culinary history. In 1939, Irma wrote Streamlined Cooking for busy, modern women, and in 1946 she penned A Cookbook for Girls and Boys. The 1953 edition of JOY was the last she worked on before her death.
Irma not only relentlessly collected recipes, she captured the culinary spirit of America. She juxtaposed traditional German fare with early Italian-American dishes and classic French preparations. She was not shy about culinary advances, embracing canned goods for their practicality and convenience. Her principal effort in creating and updating JOY was to give the average American cook a comprehensive, casual, and ultimately indispensible cooking companion. She was not satisfied to let JOY become a relic. Rather, she updated the book fearlessly and tirelessly, ensuring JOY's continued relevance.
When she died in October, 1962, the Washington Post said in their editorial about her, “Few women have contributed more to the joy of life–more accurately, perhaps, to the joy of living–than Irma A. Rombauer, who died on Tuesday at the age of 86 at her home in St. Louis. There is hardly a bride in America–or a groom either, for that matter–who has not been the beneficiary of her witty, warm wonderful cookbook, the Joy of Cooking.”
As custodians of Irma's pride and joy, we could not agree more, and we still smile when we read her timely, witty words.