Saturday, March 23, 2013

Happy Birthday, Fannie Farmer!


Today we remember the woman responsible for starting a cooking revolution in America. For centuries, words like "dash", “pinch,” “handful,” or “heaping cup” were used when preparing and sharing recipes. In 1896, the newly published Fannie Farmer Cook Book began to change all of that. It was the first cookbook which applied a standardized measurement system to cooking, and is still popular today, more than a century after its original publication.

From The Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of Fannie Merritt Farmer (books by this author), born in Boston (1857). She's known for publishing the first cookbook in American history that came with simple, precise cooking instructions. 
She compiled all the recipes she had ever learned, along with advice on how to set a table, scald milk, cream butter, remove stains, and clean a copper boiler. At first, all the publishers turned her down because they reasoned that these were all things young women could learn from their mothers. Finally, Little, Brown agreed to publish the book if Fannie Farmer would pay for the printing of the first 3,000 copies. It has sold millions of copies since.

Strangely enough, I don't think I've ever owned a Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Nor do I remember my mother using one. I was raised in a Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens kitchen. How about you - did you grow with Betty or Fannie?




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20 comments:

  1. You've made me want to get a copy -- we were Betty Crocker and Good Housekeeping in our house, no Fannie Farmer books. Great photo, BTW.

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  2. Yes, another Betty fan here..but I certainly have heard of Fannie.
    Don't think I ever saw a pic of her though....

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  3. I'm a Fanny girl, so to speak! :--)

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  4. No Fanny Farmer in our house growing up...we were all about Betty Crocker. I even have one of them now, and actually use it! Which is crazy with all the fancy schmancy ones I have.

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  5. She lived around the corner from me at some point (so sayeth my guidebook) - I keep meaning ti walk by the house (or its former site). I have the modern revisions of her books, and it was fascinating to read Christopher Kimball's book on recreating one of her meals (though I find him annoying...)

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  6. For me it was Five Roses Flour and then Joy of Cooking.

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  7. She's new to me. We had Aunt Daisy and the Edmonds Cookbook. Hope you are having a good week.

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  8. I've never heard of Fannie Farmer, either. My mother was a Joy of Cooking & Vegetarian Epicure sort of person, and I inherited those from her.

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  9. I think my mom had a Fannie Farmer cookbook, but I remember the red plaid of the Betty Crocker one very clearly, so I know she had that one!

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  10. I remember bringing Fannie Farmer chocolates to my teachers in grade school for Christmas:) (50+) years ago

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  11. Fanny Farmer and Betty Crocker were the first cookbooks I owned. Those two ladies got me started on my culinary path.

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  12. I had this book years ago! Don't think I ever made a single recipe out of it though;(

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  13. My grandmother had a Fannie cookbook but we were mostly a Betty family. What a wonderful woman to celebrate though as she gave us the first cookbook to follow.

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  14. In my family Fanny Farmer is a basic cookbook you give to every person just starting out (as well as Joy of Cooking and a classic Chinese cooking book). I have a modern Fannie Farmer as well as a Modern Fannie Farmer Baking Book. And I snatched up my MIl's copy of a very old Fannie Farmer. I haven't cooked out of it yet but I love to see it on my shelves.

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  15. I have never heard of her, but she is probably an American cooking "celebrity", not so much European. Interesting that she came up with the measurements you still use today.

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  16. Oh yes, my mom had a Fannie Farmer book and so do I.

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  17. I didn't realize Fannie regulated it all for us...Thank you for that Ms. Farmer!!!

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  18. I was raised in a Better Homes and Gardens house! I still have that red checkered cookbook and use it from time to time.

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  19. My mother's mother attended The Boston Cooking School, directed by Fannie Merritt Farmer, in 1910 or so. After she graduated from Boston University in 1909, no mean feat for a farmer's daughter, she prepared for marriage to an ambitious dairy farmer by taking several courses at the school. I have one of the Fanny Farmer books that she owned. It's a new edition that was published in 1924. My grandmother's earlier editions of the book are now owned by several cousins.

    In 1972, my mother bought me a paperback revision of the original Fanny Farmer cookbook, entitled The All New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook, Complete and Unabridged. It cost $1.50. I have used it and used it to death. Thank you, Fannie Farmer!

    Judith

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    1. Judith - Thanks so much for sharing that story! As I wrote in the post, I grew up in a Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens kitchen... and mostly associated Fannie Farmer with chocolates, but that Fannie was spelled with a "y"!

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