Thursday, October 2, 2008

Review of The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones

Judith Jones, at least to me, is one of those women in publishing. You know, those ones. You've heard their name somewhere, only you can't remember where. Maybe on NPR? You know she's responsible for something to do with...oh, cookbooks...publishing...you're pretty sure she's really important. Recently I picked up a copy of The Tenth Muse at the library feeling I ought to get to know a bit more about what this woman has done for publishing and also for cooking.

Suffice to say if there was a great discovery to be made, Jones quite likely had a hand in it. It was Jones who brought The Diary of Anne Frank to publication and, as if that weren't enough of a career accomplishment, Jones who championed Mastering the Art of French Cooking into its publication. Jones chronicles the process of working with Julia Child to present a recipe for a French baguette because, at the time, no such thing was commercially available in the US, and both women believed French bread to be crucial to a fine French meal.

Jones's memoir reads like a who's-who of the genesis, not only of American cooking (Marion Cunningham. MFK Fisher, Edna Lewis, Jams Beard) but of the great expansion of regional and international cookbook authors (Claudia Roden, Madhur Jaffrey, Hiroko Shimbo, Lidia Bastianich). I was surprised to see that Jones keeps constantly abreast of the changes in publishing, food trends and food history in this country, pausing to mention Michael Pollan or Eric Schlosser in a local chapter on local eating and cultivating a garden.

While I would have liked to hear Jones discuss her position in publishing with some regard to feminism or women's issues (perhaps especially because she dealt primarily with cookbooks, and domesticity is already a murky issue for women) I thoroughly enjoyed the book overall. Jones has changed the character of many households through her continuous contribution to culinary writing and her memoir is a quiet pleasure for any fans of food. For anyone wanting to learn more about Jones, Michael Ruhlman has a good interview here and the New York Times has a great profile up here.
If these names sound unfamiliar to you, check them out next time you're thinking of googling some Food Network show or whipping up a Rachael Ray suggestion.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Wow, I had no idea the same woman who was such an important cookbook pioneer was also the woman we have to thank for the publication of The Diary of Anne Frank! So interesting.