Fannie Merrit Farmer was a cooking school owner and a well-known cookbook writer of the early 1900s. She was highly influential in the development of American cooking and the future of American cookbooks. She was the first to insist on precise measurements in her books. Before this, most cookbooks featured imprecise or only vague references to ingredient amounts, making duplicating a recipe very difficult. Her most famous book, the Boston Cooking School Book, is often called ‘the bible of the American kitchen.’ It sold millions of copies over many editions, something unheard of at the time.
Farmer got her start as a student at the Boston Cooking School, in which she enrolled at the age of 30, in 1887. She was principal of the school from 1892 to 1902 when she formed her own cooking school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery.
Her approach to cooking, and to cooking information, was practical and concise. Her original version of this influential and important cookbook contains a section on the chemical composition of different foods, information on food science and the chemistry of cooking, 1380 precise, exacting, and fully tested recipes, menus, household hints, and a glossary of culinary terms. More recipes were added to subsequent editions, which eventually contained over 2000 recipes.
The book even contains a section on dietetics. This may have been an important subject to Ms. Farmer, as she had been plagued by a childhood illness, likely polio, which left her partially paralyzed and from which she spent years recovering. She was left with a permanent limp.
Other Fannie Farmer Cookbooks
- Chafing Dish Possibilities
- Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent
- What to Have for Dinner: Containing Menus with Recipes for their Preparation
- Catering for Special Occasions, with Menus and Recipes
- A New Book of Cookery: Eight-hundred and Sixty Recipes Covering the Whole Range of Cookery
- The Priscilla Cook Book for Everyday Housekeepers
- A Book of Good Dinners for My Friend; or “What to Have for Dinner”
See Also: What Were the Earliest Written Recipes?
The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook was actually Farmer’s revision of the original cookbook written by Mary Lincoln, principal of the school before Farmer. She, too, was one of the first cookbook writers to incorporate scientific and nutritional information into her cooking. Farmer, however, instituted much more exact measurements and more information on food science and nutrition.
While you can buy a modern revised version of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, this book has been continually updated by new authors since its inception, and today’s version will bear little if any resemblance to the original.