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STAND FACING THE STOVE: THE STORY OF THE WOMEN WHO GAVE AMERICA THE JOY OF COOKING

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STAND FACING THE STOVE: THE STORY OF THE WOMEN WHO GAVE AMERICA THE JOY OF COOKING Anne Mendelson (Holt, $29.95) Take one family — the St. Louis Rombauers — from good German stock. Add a 1931 vanity printing of Mrs. Rombauer’s mostly unexceptional recipes: molded fruit salads, Kitchen Bouquet-colored gravies, things involving canned soup. Watch this collection rise into a successful commercial volume, leavened by its idiosyncratic voice (comparing a ”vegetable plate, unadorned” to Gandhi’s bald head, the amateur chef recommended a sprig of parsley). Throw in a contentious author-publisher relationship, plus daughter Marion Rombauer Becker’s reluctant inheritance of her mother’s legacy, and a delicious story forms. Mendelson, who writes for Gourmet, discusses this most definitively American kitchen manual with measured but contagious relish. Like The Joy of Cooking, her closely researched work will be many things to many people. It’s publishing history, intimate biography, and a record of changing national tastes — a practically foolproof repast. A