Beet, Fennel and Citrus Salad with Horseradish, an elegant winter salad from the 2019 “Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, $40), can be made with oranges or grapefruit. The horseradish dressing gives it a nice zip. STYLING BY WENDELL BROCK / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

‘Joy of Cooking’ for a new generation

After marrying into legendary cookbook family, North Carolina author adds Southern touch

Megan Scott grew up in Walkertown, North Carolina. Her great-grandmother, Treva, made fried apple pies and old-fashioned chicken and dumplings. Every Sunday, until she was 97, the matriarch served her family a large lunch, then sent each of them home with a container of her pimento cheese.

John Becker grew up with his mother in Portland, Oregon, making regular visits to his father’s home in Cincinnati. His great-grandmother on his father’s side was Irma S. Rombauer, author of “Joy of Cooking,” first published in 1931 and revised and updated by Rombauer’s descendants over the years.

Megan met John at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, where she was a French major and he was deep into James Joyce. She’d heard he was a member of the famous “Joy” family, and she sought him out at a coffee shop where he worked as a barista. “He sort of blushed,” Scott recalled in an interview. “He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s my family.’”

She asked him out. They hit it off and eventually married. And since 2010, they have worked together on the 2019 edition of “Joy” (Scribner, $40). Out Nov. 12, the new “Joy” features more than 4,000 time-honored favorites and 600 new recipes from the husband-and-wife team.

Megan Scott and John Becker are the authors of the 2019 edition of "Joy of Cooking" (Scribner, $40), out Nov. 12. CONTRIBUTED BY ANIKA TORO
Photo: Anika Toro

So for the first time in its illustrious history, America’s most iconic cookbook (20 million copies in print) has a Southern author on the title page. Megan, alongside John, enters the pantheon that includes Midwesterners Rombauer; her daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker (John’s grandmother); and Ethan Becker (John’s father). Ethan Becker, who presided over the family legacy after the death of his mother in 1976, has officially handed the reins to a new generation. (John is 40, and Megan is 31.)

Does this mean “Joy” has gone Southern? Half-Southern? Well, no.

It has always represented the monolith that is American cooking, and it is likely to continue to do so as time goes by.

The 2019 edition of “Joy of Cooking” includes dishes such as Mimosa Pound Cake, Beet, Fennel and Citrus Salad with Horseradish and Asopao de Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice Soup). John Becker, the great-grandson of “Joy of Cooking” author Irma S. Rombauer, and his North Carolina-raised wife, Megan Scott, have written a new edition of America’s most popular cookbook, with 600 new recipes of their own. STYLING BY WENDELL BROCK / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

John, who started out as an engineering major and later switched to literature, was moved to take over “the book” after reading a 1963 dedication by Marion, the grandmother he never met: “We look forward to a time when our two boys — and their wives — will continue to keep ‘The Joy’ a family affair, as well as an enterprise in which the authors owe no obligation to anyone but themselves — and you.”

He knew then he’d found his calling, and that he could call on his academic training in the process. “It was kind of a tender moment,” he said. Even though he grew up hearing “touching stories” about his grandmother and visiting the family home in Cincinnati, “I felt a connection there that I had never really felt before.”

It would likely please his grandmother that in this latest edition of “Joy” you can plainly see the influence of his wife. Megan grew up in a farm family, with a kitchen garden that produced corn, cranberry beans (or “October beans,” as her grandmother calls them), tomatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, crowder peas and green beans. Her family preserved food, and she became an accomplished baker early on.

Thus in the new “Joy,” you’ll find Treva’s Pimiento Cheese, Chicken and Dumplings, and Fried Apple Pies; Megan’s grandmother Wanda’s Stewed Cranberry Beans; and Megan’s Southern Cornbread and Cheddar Scallion Biscuits.

Not to be left out, John says: “I’m not from the South, but I spent a lot of time there.” He lived about seven years in Asheville, then moved with Megan to Tennessee, where they did a three-year “Joy” apprenticeship with his father, who has a home in the Volunteer State. To prepare for their updated volume, they tested about 1,500 recipes during that time and virtually internalized the book line by line. They also created what they call “genealogies” of existing recipes, tracing their origins and changes over time.

Their goal has been to make the book more useful for time-pressed modern cooks. Anyone looking to prepare food at home on a regular basis will find helpful strategies, particularly in the new chapter “Streamlined Cooking,” which contains sections on repurposing leftovers (“Cook for a Day, Eat for a Week”); preventing waste and using scraps; and saving money.

“I feel like this is the first edition really since the 1975 that’s kind of progressing with the same strategy Marion would use and her mother before her,” John said. “Basically we are trying to build on something that is already pretty great, as opposed to rejecting it or rewriting it.”

Inevitably, some recipes had to go. (Bye, bye, Shrimp Wiggle, circa 1936, and Pesto Cheesecake, from the 1990s.)

And many others were added. (Hello, Nashville-style Hot Chicken, Megan’s Vegan Chili and Mimosa Pound Cake; John’s Frico Eggs with a crispy cheese crust; and the couple’s Beet, Fennel and Citrus Salad with Horseradish.)

At the end of it all, it was about finding the right balance of personal favorites and dishes that readers would want to see included. “I think that this is the first edition that has boiled peanuts in it,” John said, playing to his audience (i.e., a reporter from the nation’s No. 1 peanut-producing state).

Also new are Sweet Potato Pudding, Strawberry Sonker, Chatham Artillery Punch, Dirty Rice, Apple Stack Cake, Gumbo Z’Herbes, Milk Punch, Brunswick Stew — all Southern, of course.

RECIPES FROM THE NEW ‘JOY OF COOKING’

John Becker, the great-grandson of original “Joy” author Irma S. Rombauer, suggested a few recipes that he and his co-author/wife, Megan Scott, like to cook at home. Whether you savor them individually or serve them as a meal for guests, they won’t let you down.

Asopao de Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice Soup), a comforting soup from the 2019 edition of “Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, $40), is easy to put together and would be perfect for a game day get-together. “Joy” co-authors John Becker and Megan Scott use their leftover Thanksgiving turkey in place of the chicken. STYLING BY WENDELL BROCK / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Asopao de Pollo (Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice Soup)

This comforting soup is easy to put together and would be perfect for a game day get-together. After Thanksgiving, the “Joy” writers replace the chicken with leftover turkey. To use already cooked poultry, replace water with 6 cups of poultry stock and add 3-4 cups cooked, shredded turkey or chicken.

— Adapted from “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion R. Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker and Megan Scott (Scribner, $40).

Beet, Fennel and Citrus Salad with Horseradish, an elegant winter salad from the 2019 “Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, $40), can be made with oranges or grapefruit. The horseradish dressing gives it a nice zip. STYLING BY WENDELL BROCK / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Beet, Fennel and Citrus Salad with Horseradish

This elegant winter salad can be made with oranges or grapefruit, and would be lovely with blood oranges. The horseradish dressing gives it a nice zip. One good way to cook beets is to roast them at 350 degrees, covered in foil with a half cup of water in the pan, until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

— Adapted from “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion R. Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker and Megan Scott (Scribner, $40).

Megan Scott — co-author of the 2019 update of “Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, $40) with her husband, John Becker — found inspiration for her Mimosa Pound Cake in the classic 7Up Cake. Made with lots of orange zest and several glugs of sparkling white wine, the festive cake riffs on the mimosa cocktail. Becker is the great-grandson of “Joy of Cooking” author Irma S. Rombauer. STYLING BY WENDELL BROCK / CONTRIBUTED BY CHRIS HUNT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: Chris Hunt Photography

Mimosa Pound Cake

Megan Scott found inspiration for her Mimosa Pound Cake in the classic 7Up Cake. Made with lots of orange zest and several glugs of sparkling white wine, the festive cake riffs on the mimosa cocktail. It tastes and smells divine. It would be a great dessert to make ahead, freeze and pull out for the holidays. A mini bottle of Champagne is enough to make both cake and frosting.

Adapted from “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker and Megan Scott (Scribner, $40).

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