The Fabulous Fannie Farmer: Kitchen Scientist and America’s Cook

Astra/Calkins Creek. Jan. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781635926125.
K-Gr 4–The writing in this book beautifully spells out the problem home cooks faced with recipes back in Fannie Farmer’s day: “Both in books and out loud, the instructions were often cloudier than clam chowder.” Bakers were told to add a “suspicion of nutmeg,” or “as many yolks of eggs as may be necessary.” Farmer had a scientific mind. After a bout with polio, and her plans to go to college dashed, she came up with a new plan, because “Her passion for cooking and baking rose up like a seven-layer cake!” At the Boston Cooking School, where she started as a student and ultimately became a teacher, Farmer intuitively understood the value of precision and consistency. In fact, “Fannie thought cooking for a family was serious business. It involved planning and budgeting, health and nutrition.” She wanted the same result every time, and so her teachings include measuring ingredients, set baking times, and more. Although the colorful and sprightly illustrations use a style that seems aimed at younger readers, older children will love the fact that the publisher of her book, the meticulously rewritten Boston Cooking School’s cookbook, didn’t think it would sell much; Farmer paid for the printing so that she could keep most of the profits, too. Savvy! A fabulous book. Back matter includes a time line, Farmer’s books, a bibliography, further resources such as books and television shows, author’s note, and two recipes.
VERDICT She didn’t invent measuring cups, but she “influenced” the sales of them; this book rightfully bestows hall of fame status to a woman who insisted on accuracy when it came to getting success—not waste—from a recipe every time. For the biography shelves.

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