The Saturday Evening Post

THE RISE OF COOKBOOKS

Americans went nuts for the 567-page volume, buying The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book in numbers the publishing industry had never seen.

The first edition of The Boston Cooking-School CookBook— now known as The Fannie Farmer Cookbook — reads like a road map for 20th-century American cuisine. Published in 1896, it was filled with recipes for such familiar 19th-century dishes as potted pigeons, creamed vegetables, a nd mo c k t u r t le soup. But it added a forward-looking bent to older kitchen wisdom, casting ingredients such as cheese, chocolate, and ground beef — all bit players in 19th-century U.S. kitchens — in starring roles. It introduced cooks to recipes like hamburg steaks and French fried potatoes, early prototypes of hamburgers and fries, and fruit sandwiches, peanuts sprinkled on fig paste that were a clear precursor to peanut butter and jelly.

Americans went nuts for the 567-page in numbers the publishing industry had never seen — around 360,000 copies by the time author Fannie Farmer died in 1915. Home cooks in the United States loved the tastiness and inventiveness of Farmer’s recipes. They also appreciated her methodical approach to cooking, which spoke to the unique conditions they faced. Farmer’s recipes were gratifyingly precise, and unprecedentedly replicable, perfect for Americans with newfangled gadgets like standardized cup and spoon measures, who worked in relative isolation from the friends and family who had passed along cooking knowledge in generations past. Farmer’s book popularized the modern recipe format, and it was a fitting guide to food and home life in a modernizing country.

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