Boston Cooking-School Cook Book

From ArticleWorld

The Boston Cooking School Cook Book was first published in 1896 by Boston, Little, Brown and Company. The book forever changed the way cooking was perceived. It also turned its author, Fannie Merritt Farmer, into the first ever celebrity chef.



After recovering from a paralyzing stroke while in high school, Fannie, with strong support from her parents, enrolled in the Boston Cooking School, under the tutelage of Mary J. Lincoln. Lincoln’s textbook, Boston Cooking School Cook Book, was being used in schools throughout America and Great Britain to teach cooking techniques to, what were then, only professionals.

The increasing desire for women to treat homemaking and cooking as a profession, gave way to Fannie revising the book in 1896. The new revised edition was easier to understand, and had a more developed and organized means of measurement, which made cooking results more consistent.

Fannie graduated from the school in 1889, remaining as assistant director, and finally became director in 1894. In 1902 she left Boston School and opened Miss Fannie’s School of Cookery. The school’s purpose was to train housewives, not professionals. She wrote several more books, and lectured extensively until her death in 1915, at the age of 57.

The book

The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, has been the best known and most influential cookbook of all times. Its beginnings weren’t so notable.

The publishers, Little and Brown, were afraid the book wouldn’t sell well, and made Fannie front the money for the first publishing. By doing this, however, Fannie retained full copyright, and ownership. Lucky for her, the success of the book was outstanding, and Fannie became a wealthy woman.

Selling out 3,000 copies in its first printing, the cookbook was reprinted twice the next year, and once a year, every year until 1906, when the first revised edition was issued. To this day, new and revised editions continue be printed, including translations in French, Spanish, Japanese and Braille.

When Fannie died in 1915, the first revised edition of the year before, had sold more than 360,000 copies. By the sixth edition in 1936, 1,736,000 copies were in print, and by 1946’s eighth edition, the number had reached well over 2.5 million.

Fannie’s family, first her sister Cora, then Cora’s son, Herbert, kept revisions current until the eleventh edition in 1974. At that time, cookbook author, Marion Cunningham was asked to revise the book.

In 1990, Cunningham revised her edition for the third time, making it the thirteenth printing. By now the name had been changed to The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and over 4 million copies were sold, making it the number one selling cookbook of all times.

The contents

There’s no glitz and glare to the recipes in this cookbook. The original cookbook had 1,849 recipes from after dinner coffee, which Fannie states is beneficial to the stomach, to elegant puff pastry dishes, suitable for the grandest of formal dinner parties.

Some popular recipes

  • Mint Julep
  • Boston brown bread
  • Parker House rolls
  • Raised donuts
  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Lobster bisque
  • Oyster gumbo
  • Tomato soup
  • Chowder
  • Soft shell crabs
  • Fried scallops
  • Porterhouse steak
  • Corned beef hash
  • Pork chops with fried apples
  • Boston baked beans
  • Roast turkey
  • Maryland fried chicken
  • Succotash
  • Stuffed peppers
  • Glazed sweet potatoes
  • Molded snow
  • Baked Alaska
  • Apple Pie
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate cake
  • 8 different recipes for gingerbread

And hundreds more.

The book included tips on entertaining, cooking methods and techniques, food composition, nutrition, feeding the sick and hints for young homemakers. The current edition has been upgraded to include current trends, health factors and safe food handling. It is still Fannie’s cookbook, although she probably wouldn’t recognize it as hers.