Fannie Merritt Farmer – Mother of America’s Cookbook
When anyone, whether a foodie or simply someone who appreciates good, well-prepared food, thinks of delicious and innovative meals, the name Fannie Merritt Farmer comes to mind. His story is one of a determination to teach the public that you don’t have to be a professional chef to live an ideal life in the kitchen and around the house.
Bostonian Fannie Merritt Farmer (born March 23, 1857) was the eldest of four daughters born to a strong Unitarian family led by John Franklin Merritt and Mary Ann Watson. Her parents strongly believed in a good education for their daughters and it was certain that each of them would complete their university studies. Unfortunately for her, Fannie, while still in high school, suffered a paralytic stroke in her left leg, possibly a sequel to polio. Treated as an invalid for several years, she was not allowed to return to school.
Farmer, 30, not wishing to spend his last years languishing in bed, signed on as a mother’s aide for a prominent family friend, Mrs Charles Shaw. Ms Shaw urged Fannie to enroll in classes at the Boston Cooking School so she could become a professional cooking teacher. Founded in 1879 by the Woman’s Education Association of Boston, the school emphasized a more intellectual and structured approach to food preparation and attention to nutrition, and over time women have achieved high status not only as cooks, but as an educated cook. health instructors and authorities, whether for the normally healthy but also for the chronically ill in its post-Civil War school form founded by philanthropists and reformers. Working-class women were given the opportunity to enter the professional labor market when the labor market for women was not at its optimum. With an emphasis on science and domestic skills, the Boston Cooking-School quietly encouraged upper-class women to learn a “respectable” way to support themselves in the event of a reversal of fortune or the death of a husband. Mrs. Mary Johnson Lincoln, following the collapse of her husband’s finances, was one such woman. As a renowned cooking teacher and author of the original edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook, she was an inspiration to Fannie Farmer. Farmer completed the school’s 2-year program in 1889 and became assistant principal and then principal in 1891.
Fannie Farmer’s first cookbook, a revised version of Mrs. Lincoln’s The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, was published in 1896 and is still in print today. It was based on recipes from Mrs. Lincoln’s school, without giving credit to Lincoln. Farmer’s edit was concise and straightforward, with full scope. Its selling point was how food science was mixed with appealing recipes. The Farmer’s Book formed a systematic overview of the kitchen. The Boston Cooking-School cookbook left, without a doubt, Fannie Farmer a woman of generous means. Because the publisher was concerned about embarking on a business venture conceived by a woman, they insisted that she pay all initial printing costs. Because of this one-sided attitude, Farmer ended up retaining the copyrights and profits and was in the position, if she wanted to, to make some men very uncomfortable for doubting her business acumen.
In 1902 Farmer quit his job so he could open Miss Farmer’s Cooking School. Here she placed more emphasis on teaching housewives and society matrons. Its new goal was to focus on healthy eating for the sick and chronically ill or disabled patients. Farmer was involved in training dietitians and hospital nurses and regularly lectured at Harvard Medical School. Farmer also published, in 1904, what she considered her magnus corpus: Food and Cooking for the Sick and Convalescent. The topics she covered here ranged from breastfeeding infants to drinking alcohol to a treatise on diabetes, all the while cajoling her readers into making cute food presentations for the sick: serve a heart-shaped bread and butter sandwich on a delicate flower platter rather than casually tossing a piece of bread and a scoop of butter. She felt that the aesthetics helped the patient recover faster.
During the remaining years of his life, Farmer continued to lecture around the country. Towards the end, she suffered two more strokes and was forced back into her wheelchair. She lectured until ten days before her death (January 15, 1915). Her school continued to flourish under the direction of Alice Bradley, until it closed in 1944.
If for nothing else, Fannie Merritt Farmer was revered by millions for her innovations in the way a recipe was written. She standardized the size of the measurements so that a cup is always a cup, regardless of the substance being measured. This brought a lot more precision so that theoretically the recipe could be duplicated every time without all the guesswork that was expected, that little element of surprise! Her successes have led the public to call her the “mother of level measurements” or “the pioneer of the modern recipe”.
NEXT: Lizzie Black Kander created the famous cookbook used for 100 years by all sections of American society. Originally written to teach newly arrived immigrants how to properly integrate into turn-of-the-century (20th) Milwaukee, these young women learned to do everything at home, from cooking to cleaning, in an equal way to that of an assimilated good. resident. From this book came the famous Milwaukee Settlement House and its even more renowned cookbook.