March 23, 1857 — Fannie M. Farmer is born today in Boston. The American culinary expert will grow up to become the author of the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, one of the first widely used culinary texts.
Her father, John Franklin Farmer, was an editor and printer. The oldest of four daughters, her family highly valued education and expected young Fannie to go to college.
However, she suffered a paralytic stroke at the age of 16 while attending Medford High School, and for years was unable to walk. She remained in her parents’ care at home and took up cooking, eventually turning it into a boarding house that developed a reputation for the quality of the meals it served.
At 30, Farmer enrolled in the Boston Cooking School and trained during the height of the domestic science movement. The curriculum included nutrition and diet for the well, convalescent cookery, techniques of cleaning and sanitation, chemical analysis of food, techniques of cooking and baking, and household management. Considered one of the school’s top students, she was then kept on as assistant to the director. In 1891, she became the school’s principal.
In 1896, she published her famous cookbook, which introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement.
Farmer left the Boston Cooking School in 1902 to create Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, where she began teaching gentlewomen and housewives the rudiments of plain and fancy cooking. Her interests eventually led her to develop a complete work of diet and nutrition for the ill, Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent. Farmer went on to lecture at Harvard Medical School and began teaching convalescent diet and nutrition to doctors and nurses.
She died in 1915, at aged 57.
Words of Wisdom
I certainly feel that the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of diet will be an essential part of one's education. Then mankind will eat to live, be able to do better mental and physical work and disease will be less frequent.