Kitchen Canon: Joy of Cooking vs. The New York Times Cook Book

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This weekend my mom walked into my house, where I was perusing my grease-stained Joy of Cooking in search of applications for the buy-one-get-one-free London broils I had just acquired at Harris Teeter.

I can't remember her exact words, but they were laced with dismay, contempt and a hint of betrayal. Mom and my beloved late father had a running cookbook rivalry. Dad was a Joy of Cooking man, while Mom was a New York Times Cook Book snob. For as long as I can remember, they would bicker over whether the venerable Rombauer family or upstart Craig Claiborne was the final authority on any culinary matter, from the formula for Hollandaise to the pronunciation of Welsh rarebit.

It just so happens that I married a Joy man, and since I brought no particular cook book dogma into the conjugal kitchen, we've enjoyed the tranquility that comes from being of one mind--in terms of home economics, at least.

But I'm curious, in this era of so many culinary authorities--from Ina and Nigella to Mario and Lidia--is there a single canonical work, a go-to guide, a founding document, if you will, upon which any kitchen--or any marriage--should be built?

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