Today in History: Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery Opens

| August 23, 2016

160822_news_219x365

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.

Tips:

  1. See Educat for holdings of books by Fannie Merritt Farmer, as well as relevant curricular works in the collection.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. For a smorgasbord of historical cookbooks at the Gottesman Libraries, see hereFannie_Farmer

***

Need to keep current, look to the past, teach a topic? The Everett Cafe features daily postings of news from around the world, and also promotes awareness of historical events from an educational context.

Stay tuned for announcements about September’s special news displays.