Happy Birthday Fannie Farmer

There is a lot we take for granted in our modern world.  Like cookbooks, for example.

March 23 is kind of a milestone anniversary in home economics.  On that day in 1857,  Fannie Merritt Farmer was born in Boston.  According The Writers’ Almanac, Fannie is remembered for publishing the first cookbook in American history.  Up to that time, cooking was learned by trial and error and measurements were inexact, so no one saw a reason to write down recipes.

Fannie was working as a housekeeper, cooking and looking after a girl named Marcia Shaw.  She eventually taught Marcia how to cook, writing detailed instructions to help her learn.  After Fannie attended the Boston Cooking School, she realized that a book of such instructions might help young women become better cooks.

So Fannie assembled all the recipes she knew, including advice on how to set a table, how to scald milk, cream butter, and other helpful tips.

But publishers rejected her idea.  Didn’t young women learn all of this from their mothers?  Finally, Little, Brown agreed to publish her book if Fannie would pay for the first 3,000 copies.  She did, and it sold more than four million.

The complete entry can be viewed at http://writersalmanac.org/page/6/ .

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