Cooking Is Like Love. It Should Be Entered Into with Abandon or Not At All

Julia Child? Harriet Van Horne? Sydney Smith? Margaret Grade? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: While reading a cookbook I encountered an amusing quotation about cooking:

Cooking is like love — it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.

But the authors apparently did not know where it came from and labeled the words:  graffiti on a kitchen wall. Later I saw the phrase credited to the famous chef Julia Child and to the newspaper columnist Harriet Van Horne. Any ideas about its origin?

Quote Investigator: In 1956 Harriet Van Horne wrote an article for Vogue magazine titled “Not for Jiffy Cooks” and subtitled “Six recipes, simple, honest, and sometimes unconventional.” She began her article with the following counsel [HVVN]:

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.

This, then, is not a document for jiffy cooks. Nor for those devotees of those premixed, prewhipped, pre-stewed foods that crowd the grocer’s shelf.

This passage is the earliest evidence of the saying identified by QI. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1978 the saying was included in the compilation “The Quotable Woman: 1800-1975” where it was attributed to Harriet Van Horne with the Vogue magazine citation. Also, in 1978 the quotation was printed as an epigraph for an article about cookbooks that was published in Cincinnati Magazine with Van Horne receiving the credit again [HVCM].

The ascription to Van Horne was remembered in 1997. The volume “Eat Like a Wild Man: The Ultimate Game and Fish Cookbook” placed the saying in a side note and attributed the words to her [HVEW].

In 1998 a variant of the adage was described in a story about a Californian lodge published in “Los Angeles Magazine”. The proprietors of the lodge, Margaret and Tom Grade, had constructed a modified saying by substituting the phrase “dining out” for “cooking” [LADO]:

I recommend one of the tables near the fire, though the adjoining dining room is lovely, too, and is personalized with Grade’s takes on some culinary quotes: DINING OUT IS LIKE LOVE; IT SHOULD BE ENTERED INTO WITH ABANDON OR NOT AT ALL and HOW LUSCIOUS LIES THE PEA WITHIN THE POD, a line, recalls Grade, that one diner found “too sexual”.

In 2002 the saying appeared in an Italian cookbook, but this time it was not attributed to Van Horne [SSNS]:

“Cooking is like love — it should be entered into with abandon or not at all”


In 2007 a reviewer examined a new edition of “The Silver Palate Cookbook” and commented on one the anonymous sayings contained in the volume [SPKG]:

And it was sprinkled with quotations, this one included, credited simply as graffiti on a kitchen wall: “Cooking is like love — it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

In October 2011 a commenter using the handle “bup” in a feedback forum at the Goodreads website noted that the adage under investigation was included in the quotes section of the website. Yet, “bup” also found that different webpages credited the words to both Julia Child and Harriet van Horne [GRBP].

In conclusion, evidence indicates that Harriet Van Horne created this saying and published it by 1956. The words were assigned to Julia Child at a much later date perhaps because she was a prominent chef.

[HVVN] 1956 October 15, Vogue, Not for Jiffy Cooks by Harriet Van Horne, Start Page 122, Quote Page 122, Column 1, Conde Nast Publications, New York. (Verified on microfilm)

[HVQW] 1978 [Copyright 1977], The Quotable Woman: 1800-1975, Edited by Elaine Partnow, Page 365, Column 1, Corwin Books, Los Angeles. (Verified on paper)

[HVCM] 1978 November, Cincinnati Magazine, Nothing But the Facts by Lilia F. Brady, A Baker’s Dozen, Page 142, Column 1, Volume 12, Number 2, Published by Emmis Communications. (Google Books full view)

[HVEW] 1997, Eat Like a Wild Man: The Ultimate Game and Fish Cookbook: 110 Years of Great Sports Afield Recipes, Compiled by Rebecca Gray, Page 183, Willow Creek Press, Minocqua, Wisconsin. (Google Books preview)

[LADO] 1998 February, Los Angeles Magazine, Cabin Fervor by Glynis Costin, Start Page 86, Quote Page 88, Volume 43, Number 2, Published by Emmis Communication. (Google Books full view) link

[SSNS] 2002, Nick Stellino’s Glorious Italian Cooking by Nick Stellino, Page 39, Penguin, New York. (Google Books preview)

[SPKG] 2007 May 9, Post And Courier, Cookbook Still ‘Silver’ Standard by Maureen Fitzgerald, Start Page 1D, Quote Page 6D, Column 2, Charleston, South Carolina. (Google News Archive)

[GRBP] Feedback discussion at the Goodreads website, Subject title: “suggestions & questions > Way to challenge quotes?”,  Comment by bup dated 2011 October 14. (Accessed 2011 December 31) link  link  link