Our basil plants have been the saving grace of our garden this year. Poor, first-year soil? Check. Drought? Check. Heat wave? Check. Rampant insects? Check. This summer has felt like the...
What does a day at the Joy Kitchen look like?
First of all, to get your bearings, think of the Joy of Cooking as a very large boat. Not large enough to warrant a swimming pool on deck, but pretty big. There's always a lot going on, and you can't turn the thing on a dime. And, to be such a large craft, there are very few people responsible for keeping up with everything.
When John and I embarked upon our maiden voyage with the Becker Viking Kitchen Ship (John came up with that one), our job was straightforward. We were to test and photograph every recipe in the 2006 edition. After testing and photographing, we decided to research each recipe to see where it originated, and if we have comments about it or corrections to make, we make note of that.
Soon enough, though, things got a little more complicated.
In addition to the recipe testing, we started to write newspaper articles, and then there was that pesky issue of the old website that desperately needed reworking. Social networking followed shortly thereafter, as did a huge project that I am not allowed to reveal yet but that I am positively itching to tell you.
Finally, there are the day to day issues. Answering emails, writing elaborate grocery lists, attending meetings, developing new recipes, and writing blogs.
We also have two cats, 14 chickens, and keep a garden. We're optimistic and motivated, and we love what we do.
I said all that to get to my main point--that there are people behind the JOY. When you pick up a copy of the Joy of Cooking, you might, in your mind, lump it together with the Betty Crocker cookbooks or Better Homes and Gardens. There's nothing wrong with those cookbooks, mind you. We have them in our own library. But the JOY is unique in American cookery in that it remains a family-run institution. From the first printing by Irma in 1931 to everything we do today, the Becker family oversees everything that JOY takes part in.
We don't have interns or a paid staff. We don't have an agent or a publicist. When I refer to our "test kitchen" I'm talking about a singlewide mobile home that we retrofitted to serve as a workspace for testing recipes. We have two stoves, two refrigerators, and a lot of counter space. It's not fancy, but it works.
We live in a place where the closest grocery store is 45 minutes away, and the driveway washes out every year. It's the sort of place that is easy to fall in love with--dramatic sunsets, epic vistas, white-tailed deer bouncing through the golden plains at dawn. It's also the sort of place where the reality of your isolation can have a ragged edge--a pair of bobcats wiping out your flock of guinea hens, the knowledge that the closest police officer or ambulance is 45 minutes away, and the intense loneliness of rarely having friends over and never being able to go anywhere casually.
There are days when it's overwhelming. Mostly, though, we've adapted, and the isolation helps us focus on our work. And with a book as historic and buxom as JOY, that work is constant.
When we find a problem with one of our own recipes (or when one of you points out an error to us), we test and retest it until we get it right, and then we correct it. When you send us an email, we actually do read it. We may not respond to every one, but if there's a legitimate problem, we try our best to fix it.
We are constantly researching new things. When a new (or new to us) cooking method arises, we try it out, we read about it, we see what other people have to say, and we add it to our ever-growing list of things we want to add to the book.
We are here. We want you to know that we do not take you lightly, and we want to hear what you have to say.
On that note, welcome to the new JOY site!
We're very excited about it. There are lots of new features I need to talk about, so I'll try to make it brief.
You now have the ability to comment on blog articles. So get to it! We ask that comments be on-topic, friendly, and constructive. Those who violate this policy will be barred from comments and forums, and offensive comments will be deleted.
Which brings me to the forums. If you click the Joy Community menu option, a world of forums will open up to you. Any cooking-related question you have is welcome. There are categories, so choose wisely, but basically the forums are a place for you to get answers from other site users and from us. That's right. We'll be on the forums, too, and while we don't have time to answer every question, we'll do our best to answer quite a few of them.
We highly encourage you to visit the All About Joy page, where you can find information about the family, our friends, and every edition of JOY. We invite you to see the faces behind the book.
Finally, please open an account on the site. You may comment as a guest user, but in order to access the social side of the site, you'll need to register with us. We will never sell your name or email address to anyone, and I promise you will not get a waterfall of junk in your inbox--no promotions, no advertisements, no frippery.
Speaking of ads, you may notice that there are no advertisements on our site. This is because we do not endorse anything. We feel that, to remain a reputable source of information, it is imprudent for us to accept money for product endorsements. So we don't. If we ever talk about a product or a brand on this site, you'll know that we really, really like it and that we weren't paid to say nice things about it. This is a JOY tradition. To my knowledge, the only brand mentioned by name in any edition of JOY is Tabasco. And we weren't paid to mention that one either.
A word on recipes. We post a lot of original material on this site. It is often inspired by other food blogs or cookbooks, and when it is, we are sure to cite those sources. Some recipes come straight from the Joy of Cooking. However, many of you have commented or emailed us about not being able to find certain JOY recipes on our site. This is because we value our content very highly. We are happy to share tips, techniques, and recipes with you, but we are not inclined (or allowed) to post the entirety of the cookbook on this site. It's our bread and butter. Just as current, popular cookbook authors never publish their entire cookbook on a website, neither do we. If you have a question about a specific recipe, though, never hesitate to ask.
Enjoy the new site and explore. Look for good things to come--giveaways, guest blog posts, and more reliable information and recipes from us. Thanks for stopping by.