In 1930, when her severely depressed attorney husband committed suicide, Irma was 52 years old. She had never worked outside the home. She did have $6,000 in savings — a significant sum during the Great Depression — but she knew it wouldn’t last forever.
What was she going to do with her life? Irma happened upon a solution that astonished her friends and family. She would write a cookbook.
Irma was, by all accounts, a competent cook and a slightly better baker, but nothing in her background suggested she was cut out for culinary fame. She also knew nothing about publishing.
The first edition of Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking was self-published in 1931. She used half her life savings to hire a local printer in St. Louis, where she lived. The printer had never published a book before!
Marketing, at first, was largely by word of mouth. Irma delivered copies to local bookstores herself.
Unlike most other cookbooks of the time, Joy of Cooking was filled with practical tips, stories and witticisms. It was a winning formula. Future professionally published editions ran to over 18 million copies, making it one of the best-selling cookbooks of all time.
The secret that made Joy of Cooking so successful was in the title: the little word, “joy.” Far from producing a dry, technical manual — which was what most cookbooks were at the time — Irma spoke conversationally to her fellow homemakers, helping them have fun in the kitchen.
Simple, hearty, competently prepared food is one of the great blessings of life and a significant source of joy. Irma Rombauer knew that. Too easily, we forget it.*
What are you doing with your life? Are you cooking with joy, eating with joy, working with joy, doing laundry and dishes with joy, commuting with joy, living next to barking dogs with joy, paying bills with joy, going to church with joy?
The joyless duty in all those is not what God has in mind for you. Instead, there is joy to be found in all those things, and anything else in life. But how?
It’s like Irma, who believed not so much that cooking gave her joy but instead she gave her joy to cooking. And then gave that to others in a cookbook that sold millions not because of its recipes but because of its rejoicing.
“Rejoice in the Lord always” the Bible says (Philippians 4:4). Anytime. Anywhere. Anything. Give your joy to working or paying bills or going to church. Approach it with a glad heart and see God at work in it. He is a glad God and wants you to be glad, too.
Faith says to God, “You will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11). Whether it’s eternal life in heaven, or entering data at work all day, being in it with God is what fills us with joy.
PRAYER: Dear God, you prefer my delight to my duty, and give me every reason to be glad every day. Help me to be more honest with you and myself about my joyless duties, and to bring joy to them because you are with me there. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: “Real joy is not just a feeling; it is a lifestyle. It is not the result of things that are happening around me, but a sturdy rest and peace that I bring to the things around me that change the way I think about and interact with them. Real joy is vertical. It results from being in a personal relationship with the Creator and Ruler of the universe and resting in his plan for the world. Real joy is rooted in a belief that what God has told you is reliable and accurate” (Paul Tripp). Read more about joy in this devotion by Paul Tripp.