Fanny Farmer was afflicted with a paralytic stroke when she was only 16 years old. She couldn't go to college, as she'd planned, so she took up cooking. By the time she was 30, Farmer had relearned to walk (although with a limp), and she entered the Boston Cooking School.
At that time domestic “arts” such as sewing and cooking were being transformed into domestic “sciences.” Farmer cared passionately about nutrition, “convalescent cookery” (that is, cooking for the injured and the ill), and household management.
Farmer was such an excellent student at the cooking school, she was made an assistant to the director and finally the principal of the school. Eventually she started her own school, and she even became a guest lecturer at Harvard Medical School!
Farmer won fame by writing a cookbook, which was published on this date in 1896. It had 1,849 recipes—everything from mutton and veal to gingerbread and fritters—and it used for the first time standardized and level measurements. Until Fanny Farmer's cookbook, recipes called for "a piece of butter the size of an egg" or "a teacup of milk." When Farmer called for a cup of an ingredient, she instructed readers that a cup was measured level.
Did you know...?
- The publishers of Farmer's cookbook (Little, Brown and Company) assumed it wouldn't sell many copies; they only printed 3,000 copies, and Farmer had to foot the printing bill! Yet today, 112 years and over 4 million copies sold later, her cookbook is STILL in print!
- Since Farmer had to pay to print her book, she kept the rights to it; she became wealthy while her cookbook outsold every other book Little, Brown and Company published.
- The first brownie recipe ever published was in Farmer's 1906-edition cookbook.
Celebrate by cooking!
How about making some brownies?
Fanny Farmer's cookbook is available online!
Including 2 recipes for brownies.
(I can see that you can see: I'm obsessed with brownies!)
Brownies Recipe #1
1/3 cup butter
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 cup powdered sugar
7/8 cup bread flour
1/3 cup Porto Rico molasses
1 cup pecan meat, cut in pieces
Mix ingredients in order given. Bake in small shallow fancy cake tins, garnishing top of each cake with one half pecan.
Brownies Recipe #2
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, unbeaten
1/2 cup walnut meats, cut in pieces
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
Mix ingredients in order given. Line a seven-inch square pan with paraffine paper. Spread mixture evenly in pan and bake in a slow oven. As soon as taken from oven turn from pan, remove paper, and cut cake in strips, using a sharp knife. If these directions are not followed paper will cling to cake, and it will be impossible to cut it in shapely pieces.