Little Bits of History

Fannie Farmer

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 23, 2011

Fannie Farmer

August 23, 1902: Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery opens in Boston, Massachusetts. Fannie Merritt Farmer was born in 1857 in Medford, Massachusetts. Her father was an editor and printer and he believed in education for all four of his daughters. Unfortunately, Fannie suffered a stroke while still in high school at the age of 16. The stroke left her unable to walk for several years. She remained at home with her educational plans put on hold. While recuperating, she took up cooking. She turned her mother’s home into a boarding house renowned for fabulous meals.

At the age of 30, she enrolled in the Boston Cooking School. She stayed for two years, studying nutrition, convalescent cooking, sanitation, chemical food analysis, various techniques for cooking and baking, and household management. Fannie was one of the school’s top students and stayed on as the assistant to the director after her studies were completed. In 1891, she became the school’s principal.

Fannie published her best-known book in 1896. The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book used standardized measurements and was a follow-up work to Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book published in 1884 by Mary J. Lincoln. Fannie’s book eventually contained 1,849 recipes as well as household tips for cleaning, food preservation, and nutritional information. The publishers were not sure of sales and would only consent to publish if Fannie herself paid for the first edition of 3,000 books. It sold well. In fact, it is still available today.

In 1902, Fannie left the Boston School and founded her own cooking school. She ran the school, traveled for speaking engagements around the country, and wrote more cookbooks. In 1904, she published a cookbook for foods used to treat various maladies. She was so famous for her nutritional information, she lectured at Harvard Medical School. She spent the last seven years of her life confined to a wheelchair, but it barely slowed her down. Her last lecture was given just ten days before her death. She died at the age of 57 in 1915.

“When we decode a cookbook, every one of us is a practicing chemist. Cooking is really the oldest, most basic application of physical and chemical forces to natural materials.” – Arthur E. Grosser

“The biggest seller is cookbooks and the second is diet books — how not to eat what you’ve just learned how to cook.” – Andy Rooney

“Every year the number of new cookbooks increases, but in spite of them the progress made in this most useful of the arts is not ever overpowering. On the contrary, we must regretfully admit that nowadays people no longer prepare the fine and nourishing dishes that our mothers used to make.” – Anna Dorn, Cookbook Author (1834)

“It is not, in fact, cookery books that we need half so much as cooks really trained to a knowledge of their duties.” – Eliza Acton, ‘Modern Cookery for Private Families’ (1845)

Also on this day:
The Blue Planet – In 1966, the first pictures came back from the Moon.
Holy God – In 1948, the World Council of Churches was founded.

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