Michigan State University

Gillette, F. L (Fanny Lemira), 1828-1926

Fanny Lemira Gillette was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1828, the daughter of Samuel and Fanny (Dake) Camp. She graduated from Albion Seminary in Michigan (now Albion College) and married G.W. Gillette from Sheboygan Wisconsin, on March 15, 1848. Her popularity as a cook book author started late in life; in 1887, at nearly sixty years old, she published White House Cook Book: A Selection of Choice Recipes Original and Selected, During a Period of Forty Years' Practical Housekeeping. Its name was more marketing ploy than description, as the cookbook contained no information about White House cookery other than a few photographs of White House First Ladies. Later editions, however, were co-authored by White House steward Hugo Ziemann, and included chapters on menus for special White House occasions (including General Grants' Birthday Dinner and a buffet for 1000 people) and on the management and direction of White House dinners. Ziemann had served as caterer to the exiled son of Napoleon III, steward at the Hotel Splendide in Paris, and chef at the Hotel Richelieu in Chicago, and his contributions to the White House Cook Book made good on the title's promise of a glimpse into the White House kitchen. The book's popularity grew strong, and at the turn of the century it became a favorite gift to new wives setting up house. The most recent edition, a revised and updated 1996 version, includes dietetic alternatives to the original recipes, and opens with the sober warning, "The original recipes and remedies contain ingredients which may not necessarily be healthful for some of today's lifestyles."

As new editions of White House Cook Book were appearing, Gillette also published The Household Gem Cyclopædia. A Reference Library for the Home (1891); The Presidential Cook Book (1895); and Mrs. Gillette's Cook Book: Fifty Years of Practical Homemaking (1897). Gillette also wrote many small books of recipes. She lived for a period of time in Brookline, Massachusetts, and passed away in Beverly Hills, California at the impressive age of ninety-eight.

Sources

  • A Dictionary of North American Authors Deceased Before 1950. W. Steward Wallace, Compiler. Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1951.

     

  • Gillette, Fanny Lemira, White House Cook Book: A Selection of Choice Recipes Original and Selected, During a Period of Forty Years' Practical Housekeeping. Chicago: R.S. Peale & Co., 1887.

     

  • Gillette, Fanny Lemira and Hugo Ziemann, White House Cook Book: Cooking, Toilet and Household Recipes . . . the Whole Comprising a Comprehensive Cyclopedia of Information for the Home. Chicago: Werner, 1890.

     

  • ----------White House Cook Book. Janet Halliday Ervin, Editor. Chicago: Follett Publishing Co., 1964.

     

  • ----------White House Cook Book, with Healthy Updates by Patti Bazel Geil, RD, and Tami Ross, RD. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996.

     

  • Who Was Who in America. Vol. IV. 1961 - 1968. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, Inc., 1968.

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