Each year brings hundreds of new cookbooks, many of them worthy of a spot in home kitchens. Yet every month this reporter finds himself returning to the pages of his copy of Joy of Cooking, which looks, and may in fact be, half a century old. Some classics are irreplaceable; that doesn’t mean, though, that they can’t be improved upon. This season will see updated versions of four culinary stalwarts, each of which aims to preserve the strengths of the original while appealing to changing tastes and mores.

Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything first pubbed in 1998 and has sold 430,000 print copies over two editions per NPD BookScan, whose records go back to 2004. The book has spawned several variations—How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, How to Cook Everything Fast, How to Cook Everything: The Basics—as well as a website and two apps. The 20th anniversary edition (HMH, Oct.), billed as a “completely revised” update, reflects the author’s evolution.

Formerly a food columnist at the New York Times, Bittman is now on the faculty of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and has become well known in some circles for 2013’s VB6, which advises a primarily vegan diet. Bittman’s focus on health explains why the new How to Cook Everything pays particular attention to alternative baking staples, whole grains and produce, and sustainable seafood.

Another change is more cosmetic. Reviewing How to Cook Everything Fast in 2014, the Washington Post said the franchise emphasizes “food preparation, not food-porn photos.” No more: the new edition also introduces full-color photographs, in keeping with the Instagramification of the cookbook category.

When How to Cook Everything first pubbed, one reviewer called it “a more hip Joy of Cooking.” But Joy of Cooking, hip or not, has held its own. The book first appeared in 1931 and has remained in print since 1936. The 75th anniversary edition has sold 859,000 copies, per BookScan, and the book has found a following online through its app.

November sees the first new edition since 2006, edited by John Becker—great-grandson of Irma Rombauer, the book’s original author—and Becker’s wife, Megan Scott; it will be the first Joy of Cooking available as an e-book. Its more than 600 new recipes reflect today’s culinary tastes and techniques, with more vegetarian and vegan dishes, as well as kombucha, bulgogi, and sous-vide instruction. The faster cooking times for many of the recipes should spark particular joy for time-pressed contemporary home cooks.

Originally published in 1950 by an Italian architecture and design firm, The Silver Spoon (or Il cucchiaio d’argento) is a fixture in its home country and beyond. An English-language translation, released in the U.K. in 2005, was Phaidon’s first cookbook. It pubbed in the U.S. the following year and has sold 366,000 print copies over two editions, per BookScan. The Silver Spoon Classic (Sept.) highlights a selection of 170 recipes from the original, showcasing regional Italian cooking.

Also forthcoming is the 10th anniversary edition of The Silver Spoon for Children (Oct., ages 7–10). Both books, with new, sophisticated photography, honor the design origins of the original. The children’s edition also features appealing, instructive illustrations that aim to entice the next generation of home cooks.

Return to the main feature.