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 Irma <I>Starkloff</I> Rombauer

Irma Starkloff Rombauer

Birth
Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
Death 14 Oct 1962 (aged 84)
Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
Burial Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
Plot Block 270, Lot 5652
Memorial ID 20789 · View Source
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Cookbook Author. Born Irma Starkloff in St. Louis, Missouri, she was the daughter of Dr. Hugo Maximilian von Starkloff and Emma Kuhlmann. She accompanied her parents to Europe in 1889 where her father served as American consul in Bremen, Germany. The family returned to St. Louis in 1894 where Irma studied drawing and painting at Washington University. After a brief romance with novelist Booth Tarkington, she married Edgar Rombauer, a lawyer in 1899. They had three children. For the next thirty years Irma devoted herself to the roles of wife, mother and hostess. As a bride she was admittedly more "ignorant, helpless and awkward" around the kitchen than the average upper-middle-class woman of her generation. But memories of many wonderful meals in Europe and at family gatherings made her dissatisfied with the dreary, antiseptic fare prepared by her kitchen help. In self-defense, she decided to try her hand at cooking. By trial and error, using recipes and techniques gleaned from relatives and friends, culled from newspapers and books, and pried out of secretive restaurant chefs, she taught herself to cook, but not before she had "placed many a burnt offering upon the altar of matrimony." Taking copious notes on her successes and failures and recording the precise weights and measures of ingredients, oven temperatures and cooking times, she built up a considerable store of virtually foolproof recipes that she shared with friends and colleagues in the many civic and cultural organizations to which she belonged to in St. Louis. Her husband died in 1930, leaving Irma depressed and at loose ends, so she began to elaborate upon on the handout she had compiled for her cooking class back in 1922. The result was entitled "The Joy of Cooking" and was printed at her own expense in 1931. The book sold less than 3,000 copies. With the help of her daughter Marion, who had helped test and research many of the dishes, Irma soon turned out an expanded manuscript that featured an innovative step-by-step recipe format embedded in a relaxed, humorous commentary about food and drink. The enlarged book caught the attention of Lawrence Chambers, president of Bobbs-Merrill, who frequently dined at the home of Irma's Indianapolis relatives and he agreed to publish it. The first edition of Joy appeared in 1936 and it was incorporated into the hefty tome that quickly became the best-selling cookbook in publishing history. Irma loved to travel in search of fresh ideas and original recipes and in 1954 after returning from Mexico, where she found cooks eager to confide their secrets to her but many of their dishes "too hot for comfort," she suffered a stroke and withdrew from active collaboration on the book. Her last years were spent in bed at her St. Louis apartment or at her country cottage in the Ozarks. She passed her days answering fan mail or thinking of new ways to enliven and simplify old dishes.

Bio by: Connie Nisinger


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 7 Mar 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20789
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Irma Starkloff Rombauer (30 Oct 1877–14 Oct 1962), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20789, citing Bellefontaine Cemetery, Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .