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Fannie Merritt Farmer ~ The Mother of Level Measurements
Born on March 23, 1857 in Boston Massachusetts, Fannie Farmer was the oldest daughter of John Franklin and Mary Watson Merritt Farmer. As she was looking forward to attending college after high school had concluded, she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed and put a stop to her education. Fannie was a mere 16 years old. She was bedridden for months and learning to walk again was an accomplishment that took years. She would walk with a limp for the rest of her life.
Using her joy of helping around the house, Fannie gained employment as a mother’s helper with the Shaw family once her recovery dictated she was able to do so. It was during this time that her love for cooking developed. Her health continued to improve and at age 31 she enrolled in the Boston Cooking School which had a reputation for sickroom cookery classes. Fannie excelled at the school and graduated in 1889, she then became the school’s assistant director moving up to the director's position in 1894.
When Fannie Farmer published her 1896 “Boston Cooking School Cookbook”, the measurements were exact. Instead of ‘a dash’ of this and ‘a pinch’ of that, Fannie insisted on level measurements. This gained her the title of "The Mother of Level Measurements", and allowed enthusiasts to easily follow recipes with successful results consistently. The cookbook was called, “The Fannie Farmer Cookbook” and can still be purchased online today.
This cookbook was unlike any other that came before it, setting the precedent for the modern cookbooks of today. It delved into the actual cooking process, and food science, discussing calories and the nutritional needs of the body. The publishers were hesitant to publish the book due to these radical new inclusions, and Fannie decided to pay for the initial cost of printing herself. A fortunate decision, as she then retained the copyright and profits for the sales of the book, making her a wealthy woman.
In 1902, Fannie resigned from the Boston Cooking School and opened Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery where she would remain the rest of her life. She began giving lectures at the school and they became quite popular and widely attended.
Eventually, her focus turned to creating healthy diets for the sick and she began to train nurses and hospital dietitians. Being an invalid herself for a portion of her life, Fannie held great insight into the needs of invalids. Their food needed to not only be nutritious, but easy to digest.
In 1904 Fannie published a cookbook entitled, “Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent” which was written with mothers and nurses in mind. She covered what to feed infants, children adults, and caring for the elderly. There was even a chapter covering diabetes.
During the last 10 years of her life, Fannie also wrote a cookery page for “Woman’s Home Companion” with her sister, Cora Dexter Perkins.
Suffering another stroke later in life, her dedication never wavered and she continued to work from her wheelchair. Fannie Farmer died on January 15, 1915, 10 days after her last lecture.
360 Cookware is proud to honor this pioneer in the culinary arts, Ms. Fannie Farmer ~ an inspiration to all.