by Catherine Sassen, Ph.D.
Dr. Sassen is a catalog librarian at the University of North Texas, and a freelance indexer. She holds degrees in
English and Library Science.
Key Words, Vol. 9 no. 1 (January/February 2001): 9-11. Reprinted with permission.
The Joy of Cooking is widely acknowledged to be a classic American masterpiece. When the New York Public
Library named the 150 most influential books of the twentieth century, Joy was the only cookbook they included (Diefendorf
1996, 198). This book has been very popular with many generations of American cooks, and has been a perennial
Irma Rombauer published the first edition of Joy privately in 1931. Six major revisions of the text were
commercially published between 1936 and 1997. Beginning with the 1951 edition, Irma's daughter, Marion Rombauer Becker,
was featured as a coauthor. Marion's son, Ethan Becker, was a coauthor of the 1997 edition. Over the years, the text
underwent many changes in content and style, and so did the index.
The purpose of this article is to describe how the indexes changed between 1931 and 1997 in regard to culinary
indexing practices. My analysis concerns only the hardcover editions of the text listed in the Appendix following this
I searched each index for elements that have been related to culinary indexing quality and usefulness. These
elements include entries for main ingredients, types of dishes, recipe titles, geographic locations and illustrations.
I also analyzed cross-references and style considerations. For more information about culinary indexing practices, see
Wellisch (1995) and Bertelsen (1999).
Limitations of the Study
One limitation of this study is that I did not have access to the instructions used by the indexers who prepared
these indexes. When I analyzed indexes published between 1931 and 1997, I compared them to some of the indexing
practices prescribed by Wellisch (1995) and Bertelsen (1999). Therefore, I applied indexing instructions
retrospectively. It should be noted that very little was published about culinary indexing practices before the 1990s.
Another unknown factor concerns space limitations imposed by publishers. The indexers of Joy may have been
limited to a certain number of index lines, and this constraint would have affected the length, exhaustivity, and
specificity of their indexes.
Recipes should be indexed under their main ingredients, excluding common ingredients such as flour or salt (Bertelsen
1999, 7; Wellisch; 1995, 96). In earlier editions of Joy, a recipe only was indexed under a main ingredient if the name
of the ingredient appeared at the beginning of the recipe title. For example, in the 1943 edition, the recipe for
"Prune or Apricot Pie" was indexed under "Prunes" but not under "Apricots." However, in the 1953 edition, the recipe
was indexed under both ingredients.
In many cases, the main ingredient was not indexed if it did not appear in the recipe title. For example, in the
1943 edition, the recipe for "Fudge Pie" was not indexed under "Chocolate." In the 1951 and 1953 editions, the recipe
for "Hot Fudge Sauce" was not indexed under "Chocolate." However, the practice was changed in later editions, beginning
with the 1962 edition.
In early editions, many headings for ingredients were expressed in both singular and plural forms.
For example, the 1936 index had one sequence of entries under the heading for "Apple" and a completely different
sequence of entries under the heading for "Apples." A recipe was indexed under the form of the word that appeared in
its title. If the word "apple" appeared in the recipe title, then the recipe was indexed under "Apple" and not under
"Apples." Obviously, this practice inconveniences the reader because entries pertaining to one ingredient are not
listed under a single heading for that ingredient. Unfortunately, this practice also was used in the preparation of the
1943 and 1953 indexes.
Beginning with the 1962 index, an entry for an ingredient was listed only under a singular or a plural form.
However, it is difficult to understand why some of these forms were chosen. The standard practice is to use the plural
form in the entry if the topic indicates something that can be counted (Fetters 1996, 22; Mulvany 1994, 80). Examples
of such entries are "Apples" and "Oranges." Conversely, an entry should be expressed in the singular form if it answers
the question "how much" or if it is a collective term. Examples of these entries are "Beef" and "Cream." This practice
was not used in constructing headings for the 1962-1997 indexes. For example, in the 1963 index, the headings for
"Apple," "Apricot" and "Orange" are expressed in the singular form, but the heading for "Almonds" is expressed in the
plural form. Similar inconsistencies are found in subsequent editions. For example, in the 1997 index, the headings for
"Almonds," "Apples" and "Apricots" are expressed in the plural form, but the heading for "Orange" is expressed in the
Types of dishes
Cookbook indexes should include entries for types of dishes, such as "fish," "soups" or "salads" (Bertelsen 1999, 1;
Wellisch 1995, 95). Every edition of Joy includes index entries for types of dishes.
The construction of headings and subheadings for types of dishes has changed over the years. For example, in the
1931 edition, one subheading under "Cakes" was "Cakes with Fruits, Creams and Fillings that Serve as a Complete Dessert
Course." In the 1936 and 1943 editions, the subheading was shortened to "Cake with Fruit or Cream or Filling that
Serves as a Complete Dessert." The trend has been to phrase subheadings more succinctly in recent editions. For
example, in the 1997 edition, the subheadings under "Cakes" are no more than three words long. Examples of these
subheadings include: "Angel," "High-Altitude Baking," and "Sour Cream."
A recipe should be indexed under its title, with several exceptions (Bertelsen 1999, 7; Wellisch 1995, 95). A recipe
should not be indexed under its title if the title begins with a term for a cooking method such as "baked" or
"poached." Instead, the term for the cooking method should be given as a subheading under the main heading for the type
of food. This practice is followed in all editions of Joy. Wellisch also states that a recipe should not be indexed
under its title if the title begins with "nondistinctive initial terms" such as "old-fashioned," "home style," or
"quick." Furthermore, Wellisch and Bertelsen both advise against making a main heading for a recipe title that begins
with a personal or proper name, unless the recipe is commonly known by that name. However, Weinberg (1999, 9) questions
this advice, noting that "if you recall the name of an eponymic recipe, an index entry for its title is a far faster
way to access the recipe than the common terms for the ingredients."
Each Joy index includes some entries for recipe titles. In most cases, recipe titles were not indexed if they began
with nondistinctive terms, terms for cooking methods, or proper names. However, I found a number of inconsistencies.
For example, in the 1931 index, the "Mock Chicken Sandwich" recipe was indexed under its title, but the "Mock Mince
Meat" recipe was not. In the 1936 edition, the "Emergency Soups" recipe was indexed under its title, but the "Emergency
Brown Sauce" recipe was not.
The treatment of recipe titles also changed from one edition to the next. For example, the "Brandy Snaps" recipe was
not indexed under its title in the 1962 edition, but it was indexed under its title in the 1963 and 1975 editions.
Recipe Titles in Two Languages
If a recipe originated in a non-English speaking country, it may be published with one title in a foreign language,
and a second title in English. Some publishers require that both the foreign language and the English language versions
of the recipe title should be indexed (Bertelsen 1999, 9). This practice is observed inconsistently in most editions of
Joy. For example, in the 1943 edition, the recipe for "Liver Dumplings (Leberkloesse)" was indexed under both
the English and German titles. However, in the same index, the recipe for "Potato Dumplings (Kartoffelkloesse)"
was indexed under "Potato," but not under its German title. In the 1962 edition, the recipe for "Liver Dumplings (Leberkloesse)"
was indexed under "Liver" but not under its German title. In the same index, the recipe for "Potato Dumplings (Kartoffelkloesse)"
was indexed under "Potatoes" and under its German title. In the 1963 and 1975 editions, both recipes were indexed under
their English and German titles.
A recipe should be indexed under a region or place "if the book mentions that a dish is typical for a certain region
or originated in a particular country, province or city" (Wellisch 1995, 96). The indexes of early editions of Joy
provided only limited access to geographic names through the indexing of recipe titles beginning with place names. This
practice was not applied consistently. For example, in the 1963 edition, the "Austrian Pancakes" recipe was indexed
under its title but the "New Orleans Shrimp" recipe was not. Although both recipes appeared in the 1975 edition,
neither recipe was indexed under its title there. Broader geographic headings such as "Greek Foods," "Indian Foods,"
and "Italian Foods" first appeared in the 1997 edition.
Illustrations of dishes and the methods used to prepare them should be indexed (Wellisch 1995, 96). The earliest
editions of Joy did not include such illustrations. Although instructional illustrations appeared in the 195l,
1953 and 1962 editions, they were not indexed. However, instructional illustrations were indicated by bold typeface in
the 1963 and 1975 indexes, but not in the 1997 index.
The inclusion and phrasing of cross-references varied greatly during the publication history of Joy. I could not
find any cross-references in the 1931 index. Cross-references appeared in the 1936 edition, but they were not applied
consistently. For example, the listing for "Fowl and Game" was followed by a see reference to Chicken, Duck, etc.
However, the same index did not include a similar see reference under "Meat" to refer the reader to specific types of
meat. Although the 1953 edition contained a listing for "Meat" followed by a see reference to specific types of meats,
it did not include a similar reference under "Fish" to specific types of fish. Cross-references were used more often
and more consistently in the later indexes beginning with 1963.
Cookbook indexes are usually formatted with the indented style, rather than the run-in style (Bertelsen 1999, 6).
All of the Joy indexes were formatted with indentions. Most of the indexes used only one level of indented
subheadings. However, two levels of indented sub-headings were used in the 1997 edition.
Indexing practices have varied considerably throughout the entire publication history of Joy. Generally,
the 1963 through the 1997 indexes are more comprehensive and easier to use than the earlier indexes. The reader should
use any of the pre-1963 indexes with caution.
The authors of Joy were particularly frustrated with the index published in the 1951 edition (Mendelson
1996, 217-220). Editors apparently cut the index to save space. The resulting index lacked many essential entries and
cross-references, and contained a number of inconsistencies. The publishers refused to cover the expense of revising
the index alone. However, the authors believed so strongly in the importance of a good index that they covered most of
the revision costs themselves. A "new" edition with a revised index was published in 1953.
The production of the 1962 edition of Joy was fraught with problems, many of which were reflected in the
index (Mendelson 1996, 337-339). This index included a number of errors in spelling, alphabetization, and page
references. Furthermore, the index was difficult to read because of the small typeface as well as the lack of
typographical distinctions for major headings. The index published in the 1963 edition was completely revised and
Although every Joy index contains headings for main ingredients, later indexes provide more depth of
indexing, as well as more consistency among headings. Every Joy index provides headings and subheadings for
types of dishes, but later indexes include more succinctly phrased subheadings. Later indexes also provide access to
illustrations, as well as increased access to recipe titles. In addition, cross-references are used more often and more
consistently in later indexes. The trend implicit in each of these changes has been to improve the reader's access to
If an index facilitates access to culinary information, it leads to the joy of cooking!
I would like to thank Kathy Spaltro and Monika Antonelli for reading the draft of this article and suggesting
Editions of The Joy of Cooking examined in the study:
Rombauer, Irma S. (1931) 1998. The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat.
Reprint, New York: Scribner.
* 1936. The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat. Indianapolis:
Bobbs Merrill Company.
* 1943. The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat. Indianapolis:
Bobbs Merrill Company
Rombauer, Irma S and Marion Rombauer Becker. 1951. The Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill Company.
* 1953. The Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill Company.
* 1962. The Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill Company.
* 1963. Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill Company.
* 1975. Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill Company.
Rombauer, Irma S., Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker. 1997. Joy of Cooking. New York: Scribner.
Note: Many of the journal articles listed below may be accessed through the ASI Culinary Indexing Special Interest
Group at www.culinaryindexing.org/resources.html
Bertelsen, Cynthia D. 1999. "A Piece of Cake? Cookbook Indexing: Basic Guidelines and Resources." Key Words 7, no l:
Comfort, Judith. 1997. "Writing an Index" Writing Cookbooks. Bellingham, Wash: Self-Counsel Press.
The Chicago Manual of Style. 1993. 14th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Diefendorf, Elizabeth, Ed. 1996. The New York Public Library's Books of the Century. New York: Oxford
Fetters, Linda K. 1996. Handbook of Indexing Techniques: A Guide for Beginning Indexers. Rev. Ed. Port
Aransas, Tex: FimCo Books.
Grant, Rose. 1990. "Cookbook Indexing: Not as Easy as ABC." ASI Newsletter no. 98 (May/June): 1-4.
* 1997. "In Defense of Specialists." Key Words no. 5 (Sept/Oct ): 8.
"History of editions and revisions of the Joy of Cooking." 2000. Available from:
Mendelson, Anne. 1996. Stand Facing the Stove: The Story of the Women Who Gave America The Joy of Cooking.
New York: Henry Holt.
Mulvany, Nancy C. 1994. Indexing Books. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Weinberg, Bella Hass. 1999 "Exhaustivity of Indexes: Books, Journals and Electronic Full Text: Summary of a Workshop
Presented at the 1999 ASI Annual Conference." Key Words 7: no. 5 (Sept/Oct): 1, 6-19.
Wellisch, Hans H. 1995. Indexing from A to Z. 2nd Ed. New York: H. W. Wilson.
Whitman, Joan, and Dolores Simon. 1993. "Indexing" Recipes into Type: A Handbook for Cookbook Writers and
Editors. New York: HarperCollins.