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Frame: Old School Cooking

February 11, 2011

A friend recently gave me her well-worn copy of Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book. Fannie was a well-known culinary expert and her cookbook, first published in 1896, was the first to introduce the idea of using standard measurements from measuring cups and spoons. It also introduced such treasures as Fish Balls, Porcupine Tomato Salad, Cornstarch Cake, Beef a la Mode, Tuna Loaf, and Molded Russian Salad (aspic jelly, lettuce, cooked vegetables, and mayonnaise).

She uses ingredients I’ve never heard of, like “thin cream,” “Boston crackers,” “Brown sauce,” and “silverskins” (silverskins are onions, I have learned). These items make me think that Fannie might be a little behind the times.

consumme dubarry recipe

But, Fannie also writes wise – and succinct – words on how to prepare basics like stock or consumme, gives her thoughts on how to serve tea and what tea to serve, and provides an extensive listing on how to prepare offal such as kidneys. There is even a recipe for Boiled Macaroni- she actually instructs you on how to boil water, add salt, and cook pasta noodles.

Fannie’s recipes are not fancy, the ingredient list is usually short, the directions are to the point. She was writing before pithy cooking anecdotes were all the rage- hence, there are none. Which is a pity, really, I would have liked to read her thoughts on cooking in 1896, and she actually has a lot of recipes I want to try. Stay tuned, I imagine I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Sunshine Cake, Smith College Caramels (if only so I can rename them Wellesley College Caramels), and Fannie’s take on “India Curry”  soon enough.

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