An article on the history of the "Boston Cooking School Cook Book" in the Nov. 25 Food section stated incorrectly that Dexter Perkins and his wife inherited the copyright to the book from its author, Fannie Merritt Farmer, Perkins' aunt. Perkins was not married at the time. In addition, the article mistakenly called Perkins' mother, Cora, his wife.
Fannie Merritt Farmer, an energetic, red-headed, 30-year-old cooking school teacher, wrote the revolutionary "Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" in 1896. As one of the fundamental forces that has helped shape the evolution of American cooking, it has been in print ever since.
Farmer set new standards for recipe writing by introducing level measurements, and reinforced the notion that food is an important factor in the prevention of disease.
Since that first edition, the book has gone through 12 revisions, each attempting to reflect popular cooking styles of the day, and 75 reprintings. It has been translated into French, Spanish and Japanese. More than 3 million copies have been sold, including half a million since the last revision by Marion Cunningham in 1979, according to the present publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.
And, what started as the "Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" is now officially "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook."
Farmer could not have known the influence she would have and how long her name would remain recognized, although her book was America's first widely read culinary bible. It was based on the teachings of the tiny professional cooking school from which Farmer graduated in 1887. After taking the two-year cooking course, she taught there for seven years before publishing the first edition of the book.
Over the years, the book has seen many changes, as well as peaks and valleys in popularity. Though not all editions of Farmer's "Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" were available locally for close scrutiny, we were able to find some interesting changes in the following books on our own shelves and on the shelves of the Library of Congress:
[1896 (first edition]: Farmer wrote and published, at her own expense, "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book." Actually, the book was a successor to the cooking school's textbook, the "Boston Cook Book," written by teacher Mary Johnson Bailey. Publishers Little, Brown and Company had considered it a risky venture and were unwilling to foot the bill. To help defray the costs, Farmer sold pages of advertising in the back of the book and went on to prove the publishers wrong by selling 8,000 copies in the first year.
She stated her concern for nutrition in the preface: "I certainly feel that the time is not far distant when a knowledge of the principles of the diet will be an essential part of one's education. Then mankind will eat to live, will be able to do better mental and physical work, and disease will be less frequent . . . It is my wish that the book not only be looked upon as a compilation of tried and tested recipes, but that it may awaken an interest through its condensed scientific knowledge which will lead to deeper thought and broader study of what to eat."
Farmer's interest in nutrition and health may be partly due to an early bout with polio that left her with a partially paralyzed leg. Though many of Farmer's early nutritional ideas are far-fetched by today's standards, at the time they were based on the most current scientific data available. One glaring example is her recommendation to eat an ounce of table salt each day in addition to that which occurs naturally in food. However, some of her other ideas, such as the recommendation to drink hot milk to induce drowsiness, are considered scientifically sound today.
Many of the cooking techniques popular today (souffle's, mousses, pure'es, breads and fresh fruit ices) can be found in her 500 pages of recipes. She dedicated an entire chapter to foods useful in healing the sick, including various homemade broths and warm cereals.
Her ability to explain cooking techniques succinctly can be found most anywhere in the book, but especially when she defines the purposes of stirring, beating and folding: "When stirring one mixes, by beating one incorporates a large amount of air, and by cutting and folding, air already introduced is prevented from escaping." She explains the proper way to start a wood fire for the stove, and offers a variety of menu suggestions, some of which are quite hefty -- six course breakfast menus, four-course luncheons and a 12-course dinner.
Farmer left the school in 1902 to open Miss Farmer's School of Cookery. Unlike the Boston Cooking School, its student population was primarily housewives and society women. In addition, she lectured in hospitals on nutrition and health, taught classes in the medicinal value of food to nurses and wrote five more cookbooks. She also revised the "Boston Cooking-School Cookbook" in 1906, adding 450 new recipes and she continued lecturing from a wheelchair after two strokes left her crippled.
Farmer died in 1915, leaving the rights to the book with a nephew, Dexter Perkins and his wife, Cora. The family revised the book and held the copyright through 1965. Old age, however, forced them to sell the rights to Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., in Bedford, Mass.
*1918 (third), 1923 (fourth): In 1918, after 20 reprintings, the book was revised again. More than 100,000 copies had sold. With each reprinting, recipes were added and deleted; the book had grown from 567 pages to 648. A new chapter on food preservation included cold pack canning and drying. The 1923 revision, though less radical, saw an enlargement of the book's dimensions: The number of pages had grown to 806.
[1930 (fifth]: Farmer's chapter on healing the sick had been dropped. The section on menu suggestions had been moved to the front of the book, and the number of courses suggested for each meal drastically reduced.
A chapter on new equipment (including refrigerators and pressure cookers) for the modern kitchen had been added. Recipes were arranged alphabetically within chapters and cross-indexed. The technical differences between baking, boiling, braising, broiling, pan-broiling, pressure-cooking, fricasseeing, frying, parboiling, roasting, saute'ing, simmering, steaming and stewing were included.
What we know today as potato toppings may have gotten their start in a separate chapter on potatoes in this book. Baked potato stuffing suggestions included grated cheese, sweet peppers, chopped tomatoes and anchovies. By now more than 1,636,000 copies had sold.
*1936 (sixth): This revision acknowledged the importance of wine in cooking, and explained the tastes of grape varieties growing in the United States. The section on cocktail party entertaining was expanded. More than 20 different canape' spreads were offered, along with such lively suggestions as serving potato chips with pa te' de foie gras, devilled Virginia ham spread and a dip of cream cheese and ketchup.
*1941 (seventh), 1946 (eighth), 1951 (ninth): Not available. However, 1951 was the last year the book was called "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book."
*1959 (tenth): Farmer's name became part of the title, "The New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cook Book," and the book underwent a complete face lift. There were suggestions for quick menus, casseroles and various uses for leftovers. Ingredients and recipe instructions were intermingled, a format identical to that found in Irma Rombauer's "The Joy of Cooking," which originally appeared in 1931. The ads were dropped from the back of the book and the Boston baked bean recipe, everybody's favorite, was slightly revised by doubling the amount of salt pork and adding dry mustard. There was a new section on aromatic herbs with drawings and suggested usage. Long elaborate meals were out. Weight became a factor, with recommended caloric intakes prominently placed in the front of the book.
*1965 (eleventh): The title became "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook." This was a spiffier book with firm, washable pages. Convenience foods are found throughout the book, including canned soups, fruits and vegetables. But there was also a push for using fresh vegetables, with 40 pages of new uses for old favorites such as braising endive, boiling fiddleheads and saute'ing leeks. Farmer's family sold the copyright to Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc.
*1979 (twelfth): Fannie Farmer Cookbook Corp. selected Alfred A. Knopf to overhaul and rewrite the book. The work was done by today's Fannie Farmer, Marion Cunningham, under the direction of editor Judith Jones. Canned foods and gelatin desserts were replaced with fresh fruit juices and seasonal vegetables. Cunningham emphasized baking and yeast breads, nearly tripled the number of fish recipes (from 12 to 33) and dropped the chapter on cocktails, replacing it with information on wine, tea and coffee.
Here are some old favorites from the annals of "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book" (a.k.a. "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook"): COCOA CORDIAL (1 serving)
This recipe is from the original 1896 book. It was included in the chapter for healing the sick. However, it is so tasty and different, we recommend that you don't wait until you are bedridden to try it. 1 teaspoon cocoa 1 teaspoon sugar 1/2 cup boiling water 1 1/2 tablespoons port wine
Mix cocoa and sugar, add enough of the water to form a paste. Stir in remainder of the water and boil one minute, then add wine. Useful in cases of chill or exhaustion (or great for the holidays!) BOSTON BAKED BEANS (8 servings)
This recipe was revised at least three times over the history of Fannie Farmer's book. Originally the beans were cooked before going into the oven; the cooking water was thrown away and fresh water was added for baking. 2 cups navy beans, small white beans or great northern beans About 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 pound salt pork 2 teaspoons dry mustard 5 tablespoons dark brown sugar 4 tablespoons molasses
Wash beans. Soak overnight. Add salt, stir and drain, reserving liquid. Cut off a third of the salt pork and place the piece on bottom of a bean pot. Add the beans to pot. Blend mustard, brown sugar and molasses with reserved bean liquid and pour over beans. Cut several gashes in remaining piece of salt pork and place on top of the beans. Cover and bake at 250 degrees for about 6 hours, adding water as needed. Uncover for final hour of cooking so the pork will become brown and crisp.