Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 758

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 758


This is the grave of Fannie Farmer.

Born in 1857 in Boston, Farmer grew up in a middle-class family that valued education. Despite having four daughters, meaning at that time it would have been easy to dismiss education as a priority, Farmer’s parents were determined their daughters be as well educated as possible. But young Fannie had what people thought was a stroke at the age of 16. In fact, it was probably polio. It’s kind of amazing she survived this, but she was unable to walk for several years in the aftermath and stayed with her parents while they took care of her.

Needing something to do, Farmer became highly interested in cooking. In 1887, she decided to enroll at the Boston Cooking School to perfect her skills. By this time, she could walk a little, though with a serious limp and spent most of her time in a wheelchair. This was a period where home economics was beginning to become a real course of study and Farmer soon became one of the national experts on this. This school was not generally for people such as Farmer. Rather, it was designed to train women who would cook in rich people’s houses. She was an outstanding student (and of course from a different social strata than the other students) and when she graduated, was asked to stay on and work for the school. She did and became its principal in 1891.

What makes Farmer known today is her cookbooks. The first and best-known is The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, published in 1896. Despite its questionable title, it was a huge success and became known (and then was retitled in subsequent editions) as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Much better title. Combining the latest in home economics with a huge section of recipes, ranging from the simple to the fancy, it was the best selling cookbook of its era and possibly the most important in American history, at least before Julia Child. In fact, Child herself noted the influence of Farmer in her own life, with her mother using the famous cookbook. By 1990, it was in its 13th edition. Among the things she did is the cookbook is actually provide precise measurements of ingredients, which previous cookbooks did not, basically being just the mind download of good cooks who didn’t need to do that.

In 1902, Farmer left the Boston School and created her own school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery. This allowed her to make a lot of money and support her aging parents and her sisters who were not doing that well financially. She continued publishing more cookbooks. Some were the kind of specific fancy cookbooks that have niche markets today. Catering for Special Occasions from 1911 is an example of this. But others were concerned specifically with food for the sick. For instance, she researched heavily how to treat diabetes with proper food, which no one had really done much before. Her 1904 book Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent was a pioneering book in this vein. She became a lecturer at Harvard Medical School about these issues. Among her insights here is that the sick deserved actual good food; in fact, for them even more than healthy people, appearance and taste really mattered when they had poor appetites due to their illness. Her lectures were published weekly in the Boston Evening Transcript and then syndicated in newspapers around the country.

Never healthy, in 1915, Farmer had a stroke and died. She was 57 years old. Her school remained open until the mid 1940s.

Fannie Farmer is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

If you would like this series to visit other cookbook authors, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Irma Rombauer is in St. Louis and Julia Child is buried offshore and underwater, at Neptune Memorial Reef in Florida. You can see it from a clear-bottom boat. So that would be interesting! Previous posts in this series are archived here.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar
Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views : Ad Clicks : Ad Views :