Michigan State University

Introductory Essay

The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook
By Fannie Merritt Farmer

Boston, Little, Brown And Company (1896).

Fannie Farmer, the author of this book, is perhaps the best known of the great American culinary authorities of the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries. And this book is arguably the best known and most influential of all American cookbooks. It has been in print from its first appearance in 1896 until the present day, although the newer editions are updated and revised so that Fannie might not easily recognize them. From its first printing it was a bestseller.

The publishers, Little, Brown, evidently afraid of losing money on a cookbook, required Fannie to pay for the first printing herself; however, she also kept ownership of the copyright on the book. Thus, she became wealthy while Little, Brown must to this day regret its error.

The first edition of 3000 quickly sold out; it was reprinted twice in 1897 and once a year thereafter until 1906, when a revised edition was issued. New and revised editions, in multiple reprints, continue to be published. It was reprinted in England and translated into French, Spanish, Japanese and Braille.

Fannie's last revision was published in 1914; by the time she died the following year, more than 360,000 copies of the book had been sold. By the sixth edition of 1936, a total of 1,736,000 copies had been printed; by the eighth edition of 1946, that number had reached 2,531,000 copies.

After Fannie's death, the book was revised until the eleventh edition by her sister Cora; Cora's son, Herbert; and his wife, Wilma Lord Perkins. In 1974 for the first time someone from outside the family, cookbook author Marion Cunningham, was asked to revise the eleventh edition. By 1990 when Ms. Cunningham updated and revised her edition of what was now called The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, as the thirteenth edition, nearly 4,000,000 copies had been sold, making this one of the greatest selling cookbooks of all times.

Why has this book been so popular? Perhaps, because Fannie wrote as if she were teaching. She explained the whys and wherefores; there is no romance, there are no flights of fancy. Simply, if you would like to make the food of Fannie Farmer, just read and follow her recipes!

This edition has more than 1200 recipes, the most up-to-date information for the time on nutrition, food composition, cooking methods and techniques, recipes for the sick, menus, and hints to the young housekeeper.

The recipes include many American classics: Mint Julep, Graham Muffins, Boston Brown Bread, Parker House Rolls, Squash Biscuits, Corn Meal Gems, Virginia Waffles, Raised Doughnuts, Strawberry Short Cake, Fried Corn Meal Mush, Fried Hominy, Lobster Bisque, Oyster Gumbo, Tomato Soup, Fish Chowder, Soft Shell Crabs, Fried Scallops, Porterhouse Steak, Corned Beef Hash, Pork Chops with Fried Apples, Boston Baked Beans, Roast Turkey, Maryland Chicken, Succotash, Stuffed Peppers, Saratoga Chips, Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Thanksgiving Pudding, Moulded Snow, Brown Bread Ice Cream, Sultana Roll with Claret Sauce, Baked Alaska, Apple Pie, Brownies, Chocolate Cake, eight different recipes for Gingerbread - and more!