FANNIE FARMER, 1857-1915
Often called the mother of level measurements, Fannie Farmer is best known as the author of The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. This was the first cookbook to use standardized measurements in recipes, assuring both novice and experienced cooks the same results.
Fannie was born in 1857 to parents that believed in education for women. At age 16, while attending Medford High School, she suffered a paralytic stroke, leaving her unable to walk. She took up cooking and housekeeping to help support the family, eventually turning her parents home into a boarding house known for its quality meals. At age 30, having recovering her ability to walk limp, decided to enroll in the Boston Cooking School. This was the height of the domestic science movement. The school believed in a scientific approach to cooking and housekeeping, teaching nutrition and diet, sanitation, chemical analysis and household management, in addition to the techniques of cooking and baking. Excelling in her studies, Fannie became the assistant to the director upon graduation and principal of the school two years later.
In 1896 the Little Brown & Company published her pioneering book, The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, but limited the printing to 3,000 copies due to a poor sales prediction. Including tips on housekeeping and cleaning, food preservation, nutritional information, and, most importantly, her discussion of level measurement in relation to recipes. With its publication she single-handedly changed the way Americans cooked food. Her book was an immediate success. It sold over 4 million copies during her lifetime.
Fannie went on to open her own school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, which remained open until 1944. She often traveled, lecturing on domestic topics, the importance of proper nutrition for the sick, and wrote several additional cooking related books until her death in 1915. A revised copy of her book, now entitled the Fannie Farmer Cookbook is still in print today, over one hundred years since its first edition.