The biggest selling hardcover book in the United States, behind the Bible and the dictionary, turns out to be a 59-year-old cookbook that has just been revised to mesh with today's health-conscious eating habits.
It is the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, a volume as familiar in the American kitchen as squishy white bread and chocolate chip cookies. More than 25 million of the red-plaid, ring-binder books have entered American homes since 1930.The new edition, the first revision since 1980, banishes to the cook book graveyard various casseroles (read that "hot dishes") in which the aggregate was sodium-heavy condensed canned soup. It also trims the fat, salt and other unpopular parts of existing recipes.
In a bow to recent pop trends the new edition includes blackened redfish from Cajun country and beef fajitas from the Rio Grande.
But there are also such middle-American favorites as hot tuna sandwich cups, salmon loaf, Swiss steak and corn dogs.
And for the new cook - or the one who can't remember how mom did it - the secrets of brown gravy and turkey stuffing are revealed.
Meredith Corp. of Des Moines, which publishes the cook book's namesake magazine, says the book has outsold everything but the Bible and assorted dictionaries since its debut, and will sell, at $19.95 each, another 425,000 this year.
Lisa Henry, an editor and spokeswoman for the revised edition, said all 1,300 new and old recipes in the book were cooked and eaten by a taste panel in the process of updating the volume.
They were also photographed, and the book includes more than 400 vibrant color pictures showing everything from raw ingredients to table-ready creations.
"We know that people are eating more poultry and fish so we increased our chapter sizes in both of those chapters. There are 86 poultry recipes and 63 for fish and shellfish," she told Reuters.
With every single recipe in the book, editors looked at ways to cut the sugar and the fat and the salt.
"In the cookie chapter we eliminated the salt from almost every single cookie because it wan't necessary - just hidden salt in your diet. It serves no purpose. It's always been there. We went back and looked at the 1930 book - it's in there," she added.
"It (salt) can't be eliminated from everything because it does add some flavor. Some things do taste flat without salt. But in most cookies the flavor comes from the chocolate, the coconut or something else," Henry said.
"We were also able to cut back the salt in many of our other recipes and boost the other flavorings - add other seasonings and herbs and spices whenever we could."
The level of sodium in the diet is of concern because it has been linked to high blood pressure.
Some of the revisions are relatively simple, Henry said, such as cutting the amount of cheese in lasagna and substituting ground beef for pork sausage.
There are also nutrition charts which for the first time in the book list the cholesterol content of various foods.
The revision began five years ago, Henry said, to catch up with new products and changing lifestyles.
"We want a cookbook to take people into the 1990s," she said. "That's what we're touting this as - a book for the cook of the '90s."