Fannie Merritt Farmer was a true polymath and her cookbook standardized the use of the teaspoon, tablespoon, and cup measurements in cooking. Her work laid the foundation for home economics courses and culinary institutes around the world.
Fannie was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1857. As a child, she suffered a paralytic stroke while attending Medford High School and was confined to a wheelchair ending her formal academic education. However, by 1987 Ms. Farmer was able to walk again and enrolled in the Boston Cooking School.
She graduated from the school with honors and was invited to join the faculty. By 1891 she had become the Director of the school and would serve for 11 years.
10 Qualities of a Great Chef
- Team Work
- Stress Tolerance
- Able to Accept Criticism
- Attention to Detail
- Commitment to Quality
Her legacy will forever be that she single-handedly standardized the cookbook/recipe industry. She brought science and organization to a chaotic system and introduced advertising to the cookbook world. She was truly a maverick of her time.
The Fulcrum That Changed the World of Cooking
A new century was dawning and American women aspired to the new ideal of middle-class family life, home-ownership, and to become a full-time mothers who would oversee the home and family. The Boston Cooking School was designed to train chefs to cook who would become private cooks for the newly emerging middle-class families.
By 1896 Frannie Farmer self-published her famous The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book which included 1,849 recipes. It provided women with a practical guide of detailed cooking and dietary knowledge that earlier generations would expect to get from their mothers, aunts, or older sisters.
The book was an immediate success and has never been out of print. Because she owned the copyright to the book, it ensured Farmer’s financial independence. She was able to finance the publication by selling advertising space inside the cookbook. That fact would make her one of the world’s first food influencers.
Cookery is the art of preparing food for the nourishment of the body. Prehistoric man may have lived on uncooked foods, but there are no savage races today who do not practice cookery in some way, however crude. Progress in civilization has been accompanied by progress in cookery.Fannie Merritt Farmer ~ An American Culinary Expert
One might think after a success that big she would ride the fame and fortune out. However, that is not how Frannie Farmer was built. She would go on to author another 5 books and she established her own school named Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery.
Frannie would regularly deliver lectures to women’s clubs, nurses, and dietitians. She even taught a course on dietary preparation at Harvard Medical School. A prolific worker, she would continue to lecture, write, and invent recipes right to the end. She would eventually suffer another paralytic stroke returning her to a wheelchair. She continued lecturing until just 10 days before her death in 1915.
Other Works by Frannie Farmer
Fannie Merritt Farmer’s other books include:
- Chafing Dish Possibilities (1898)
- Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent (1904)
- What to Have for Dinner (1905)
- Catering for Special Occasions, with Menus and Recipes (1911)
- A New Book of Cookery (1912).