Dear Ms. Irma S. Rombauer,
I regret to inform you that we are unable to accept The Joy of Cooking for publication. It is my privilege as an editor to offer new lady authors constructive criticism to help them grow as artists, so please permit me to do so for you: Your book is terrible. Below I listed some of the problems with your manuscript. Perhaps someday you can get one or two of your recipes printed in a more suitable publication, like one of those marvelously droll magazines aimed towards today’s housewives or the side of an oatmeal container.
How is the reader to know The Joy of Cooking is a collection of recipes? I myself assumed it was a story about an important woman from a charming little British town. As the first twenty-five pages had nary a recipe, I was lulled into a bit of a story — mind you, a story without plot, character, or nuance, but there were entire passages devoted to menu planning and enticingly phrased “food lifestyles.” I was curious, if not hooked. Who would Joy invite to her dinner party? Would this be a murder mystery? I was almost transported to that mysterious town of Cooking.
After a few hundred pages with lists and lists of ingredients, and exactly zero murders (except for the unfortunate squirrel you skinned using a chukka boot, gravity, and what appears to be a knitting needle on page 468) I grew suspicious and skipped ahead to see how the book ends. You can imagine my frustration and confusion as I read on page 1036, “Gelatin studded with suspended fruits never fails to delight.” I confess to one thought:
Are you mad, woman?
Had this book turned into some sort of psychological thriller, with Joy going absolutely mad, pushed beyond her limits by that most rogue of characters, Shad Roe? After many hours and rereads, I figured out this was no novel. It was a cookbook. Egads. I was not without hope, though.
It will surprise you to learn that I am not a cook, so a cookbook is not necessarily a terrible thing for me to own. It is, however, a terrible thing for me to review in an office. Once I determined that it was a cookbook and I needed to review accordingly, trouble began immediately, including several strongly worded memos to me as I worked through the fish recipes and also one meeting with my superiors after attempting to install a hibachi under my desk.
There are 4,500 recipes in this book, and in an effort to be responsible, I made every one. Do you have any idea the price of it all? If readers are like me (and I assure you, most are) the costs are not just financial ($1600 for butter alone), but also medical (multiple ER trips for knife wounds and unfortunate cheese grating incidents), professional, (especially after asking my secretary to try some of my figpecker), and personal (you have an extraordinary number of recipes involving cruciferous vegetables.) I cannot in good faith print a book that might diminish our readers’ quality of life thusly.
I tried. I truly did. I soaked beans. I stuffed capons. I purchased a tureen. I invited my family over to help prepare and enjoy your recommended Holiday Menu. My family shall forever refer to this past Christmas as the one with “The Gravlax Situation.”
For over a thousand pages I followed your incessant instructions. Do this. Do that. Tie. Truss. Bake. Watch. I must pound my now-fleshy fist on my crumb-covered desk and ask you how any reasonable person is supposed to submit to your constant hectoring and still remain sane? I am a professional and found this book to bring nothing but misery.
There was no joy, Ms Rombauer.
In short, this book ruined my life, as well as my credit, my waistline, my kitchen, and my relationships.
I would be happy to further explain these thoughts over a dinner you cook for me. I will come over to your home next Thursday the 19th. Shall we say 7?