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all about joy

Marion Rombauer Becker

January 2, 1903 - December 28, 1976
1931-1975 editions

artist, co-author, gardener, environmentalist


Besides her monumental work throughout the years on JOY, Marion realized other significant accomplishments during her lifetime. Using her art education, she worked as an art teacher and later at Women's Wear Daily. She was one of the founders of Cincinnati's Modern Art Society, and served as their first professional director.

She was a pioneer in natural gardening. Her woodland garden at the family estate in Cincinnati is now 60 years old, and was chronicled in her book, Wild Wealth. She received the "Oak Leaf" award from the Nature Conservancy. Marion was the recipient of the prestigious Medal of Merit award from the Garden Club of America. Marion was the first woman to receive the "Great Living Cincinnatian" award. After her death in 1976, a hardy, dense Boxwood strain that she had been growing at Cockaigne was given the official designation of Buxus sempervirens Joy-evergreen boxwood Joy.

Initially, Marion offered only her charming and witty paper cuttings as illustrations for the earlier editions of JOY. Later, however, as her mother's health failed, Marion found herself compelled to continue her mother's legacy. Marion brought a new perspective to JOY. Where Irma was energetic and flighty, Marion was measured and methodical. She brought her artistic sensibility to the book, which is apparent in the 1964 book cover and dust-jacket. Marion also categorically refused to bring photography into the book. She felt, and rightly so, that photography would date the JOY and make it less relevant and appealing in years to come. She opted instead for line drawings, timeless and classy renderings of cooking procedures and techniques.

Marion also brought a great deal of modern culinary sense to the book. She added a section on tofu in the 1975 edition. She was known to scour new cookbooks to see if they contained any recipes "missing" from JOY. She revised the book using a meticulous index card system of her own device. If you can imagine the JOY in index card form, then you can imagine the enormity of the task she undertook.

The 1975 edition was the last edition Marion revised before her death in 1976. While there are those who believe that the Joy of Cooking was a better book under Irma's tenure, we disagree. Marion brought to the book what Irma could not, and the fusion of the two personalitites--Irma's vibrance and wit, and Marion's steadfastness and sensibility--brought a better book into being. We look for inspiration daily from these two brilliant women.