food

Fannie Merritt Farmer – mother of the American cookbook

When a person, whether a foodie or just someone who appreciates good, well-prepared food, thinks of delicious, innovative dishes, the name Fannie Merritt Farmer springs to mind. Her story is one of determination to educate the public that you don’t have to be a professional chef to live an ideal life in the kitchen and around the house.

Fannie Merritt Farmer (born March 23, 1857) from Boston was the eldest of four daughters in a strong Unitarian family led by John Franklin Merritt and Mary Ann Watson. Her parents believed strongly in their girls getting a solid education and it was a given that each of them would graduate from college. Unfortunately, while still in high school, Fannie suffered a stroke in her left leg, possibly a result of polio. Treated as an invalid for several years, she was no longer allowed to go to school.

The 30-year-old farmer, who didn’t want to spend her remaining years in bed, hired herself out as a maternal help to a prominent family friend, Mrs. Charles Shaw. Woman. 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, structured approach to food preparation and attention to nutrition, and over time women achieved higher status not only as cooks but as educated cook instructors and Authorities for health, be it for the normally healthy, but also for the chronically ill, in the guise of a post-civil war school founded by philanthropists and reformers. Working-class women were given the opportunity to enter the workforce when the labor market was not optimal for women. With an emphasis on scholarship and domestic skills, the Boston Cooking-School discreetly encouraged upper-class women to learn a “respectable” way to support themselves in the event of a turn of fortune or the demise of the husband. Woman. Mary Johnson Lincoln was one of those women after her husband’s finances collapsed. 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 finished the school’s 2-year program in 1889, becoming 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 Mrs. Lincoln’s school recipes without giving Lincoln credit for it. Farmer’s Edition was concise and simple, with comprehensive coverage. Its selling point was how well it combined food science with appealing recipes. Farmer’s book formed a systematic overview of cooking. The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook undoubtedly left Fannie Farmer a woman of generous means. Since the publisher was suspicious of taking on a business designed by a woman, they insisted that she pay for all initial printing costs. Because of this one-sided attitude, Farmer eventually retained the copyright and profits and was able, if she wanted to, to make some men very uncomfortable for doubting her business acumen.

In 1902 Farmer left her position to open Miss Farmer’s School of Cooking. Here she placed greater emphasis on teaching housewives and society matrons. Her new goal was to focus on healthy nutrition for sick and chronically ill or disabled patients. Farmer was involved in training dieticians and hospital nurses and regularly lectured at Harvard Medical School. Farmer also published what she considered her Magnus corpus, Food and Cooking for the Sick and Convalescent, in 1904. The topics she addressed here ranged from breastfeeding infants to drinking alcohol to a factual treatise on diabetes, while encouraging her readers to make pretty food presentations for the sick: Serve a heart-shaped bread and buttered bread on a delicate flower dish, instead carelessly throwing down a piece of bread and a piece of butter. She felt that the aesthetics helped the patient recover faster.

For the remaining years of her life, Farmer continued to lecture across the country. Towards the end, she suffered two more strokes and had to return to her wheelchair. She lectured up to ten days before her death (January 15, 1915). Her school continued to thrive under the direction of Alice Bradley until it closed in 1944.

Last but not least, Fannie Merritt Farmer was revered by millions for her innovations in the way a recipe was written. She unified the metrics so that a cup was always a cup, no matter what substance was being measured. This brought with it a lot more accuracy, so theoretically the recipe could be duplicated every time without all the expected guesswork, that little element of surprise! Her achievements led her to be dubbed the “mother of level measurement” or “pioneer of modern formulation” by the public.

PART NEXT: Lizzie Black Kander created the famous cookbook that has been used by all strata of American society for the past 100 years. Originally written to teach newly arrived immigrants how to properly blend into turn-of-the-century (20th century) Milwaukee, these young women learned how to do everything in the home, from baking to cleaning, in a way that the one well assimilated corresponds to residents. From this book came the famous Milwaukee Settlement House and its even better known cookbook.

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Amine

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