Today in History: Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery Opens
Forays into pancakes lead to Fannie Farmer’s time-tested tips: when the spoonful of batter in the greased skillet is puffed, full of bubbles, and cooked on the edges, it’s ready to flip. A first attempt is premature, landing half of my daughter’s chocolate chip pancake on the stove top where it sticks, ungainly, to the surface.” Never mind, practice makes perfect,” I say with a smile, and she laughs and tries again.
True, it is almost a Sunday ritual, with variations on the homemade theme: apple cinnamon, blueberry, blackberry, banana, buttermilk. So, when asked why our pancakes are never perfectly round after all these years, I say, “That’s half the fun! Life is like pancakes!” Interesting and odd shapes are the benefit of having four pancakes share the pan.” On the other hand, correct measurements are essential for ensuring the best results, just as Miss Farmer says. So, we are conservative with the chips to avoid drowning out the taste — tempting though it may be to add in a little more chocolate.
Whether or not it’s pancakes, or the perfect Golden Cake, cooking is an essential skill, if not an art, viewable from a certain lens. After serving as Director of the Boston Cooking School for eleven years, Fannie Merritt Farmer, an American authority on the art of cooking, founded Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery. On August 23, 1902 she opened her doors, emphasizing the practice, rather than theory of cooking. Her courses were designed to educate housewives, rather than prepare teachers. Having suffered a stroke in her early years that left one leg limp, she developed special cooking equipment for the sick and physically disabled. She became an expert on nutrition in illness and advocated for the use of standardized measurements in cooking. Farmer published several cook books and delivered lectures to nurses, women’s clubs, and the Harvard Medical School.
A little further down the road, nutrition made its way into a curriculum for teachers. Mary Swartz Rose, Professor of Household Arts from 1910-1923, and Professor of Nutrition from 1923-1940, at Teachers College, designed the first nutrition laboratory devoted solely to training higher education students in the field. Some of her work also involved sharing her knowledge with students in elementary schools.
The following stories, which highlight Fannie Farmer’s achievements and long lasting influence, are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, a resource which serves to inspire research, as well as classroom learning and teaching.
- Nickerson, J. (1945, Oct 07). Best Seller and Cook’s Friend. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- Driscoll, B. (1949, Apr 30). Farmer School of Cookery Locates Kitchen of Its Own Women’s Activities. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File)
- Snoddy, A. (1957, Nov 06). Fannie Farmer Credited with Standard Recipes. The Austin Statesman (1921-1973)
- First Lady of Cookdom. (1957, Nov 18). The Sun (1837-1991)
- Loring, K. (1960, Jan 03). Have You Heard? She Cooked Up a Bestseller in the Book World. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963)
- Moore, H. (1979, Mar 29). Fannie Farmer: Cookbook Innovator. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File)
- Mahoney, J. (1970, Nov 26). Her Dinner Would Need All Day. Boston Globe (1960-1985)
- Moore, H. (1979, Mar 15). Measure for Measure, the Way We Cook Today Is Owing to Fannie Farmer. The Sun (1837-1991)
- Hansen, B. (1982, Mar 25). The Art of Cooking: Recalling Some Aspects of the Past. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File)
- Davis, S. (1984, Nov 25). The Modern Fannie Farmer. The Washington Post (1974-Current File)
- See Educat for holdings of books by Fannie Merritt Farmer, as well as relevant curricular works in the collection.
- Consult the Announcements of Teachers College (also known as the Teachers College Bulletin), to discover what was taught, and by whom, in the field of nutrition education.
- Check out interesting historical dissertations done by students at Teachers College in the field of nutrition education including, How Jell-O Molds Society and How Society Molds Jell-O: A Case Study of an American Food Industry Creation, by Rosemaria Bria.
- For a smorgasbord of historical cookbooks at the Gottesman Libraries, see here!
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