Recently I told you about one of my favorite collectible cookbooks. Today I would like to share another tried and true classic even older than The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. The Fanny Farmer Cookbook was first published in 1896 as The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, at the height of the ‘domestic science movement’. In the preface to the 1896 first edition Fannie Farmer said, “I feel that the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one’s education. Then all mankind will eat to live and will be able to do better mental and physical work and disease will be less frequent”.
The edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook I own was published in 1965 and revised by Wilma Lord Perkins. It’s book jacket is long gone, and the dark gold cover is grimy from years of use. I wouldn’t get much for it if I tried to sell it, but why would I want to? The book contains recipes for anything I might ever need, from beverages to relishes. There are instructions for preparing meat, poultry, game and fish as well as full chapters on breads, custards, frozen desserts, and cakes. There are also lovely black & white illustrations, as well as descriptions and tables related to measurements, for which Farmer became known.
Farmer, who opened her cooking school in 1902, was the first to advocate using standard measurements in the kitchen. For example, prior to 1896 cookbooks advised using butter ‘the size of a hen’s egg’. Farmer changed that through her research, in her classroom instruction, and with the publication of this cookbook. Farmer’s recipes are written in a format that are easy to read and use, setting the standard for the future of published cookbooks. The Fanny Farmer Cookbook remains in print today, a useful basic cookbook to be given as a bridal gift, or to anyone setting up house for the first time.
Reviewed by Leigh