Fannie Farmer, Scientist in the Kitchen

We’ve looked before at how science entered the kitchen in the 19th century. You can find a lot more evidence on every page of Fannie Famer‘s Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. The Cookbook was the first put together by Farmer (also author of Chafing-Dish Possibilities and Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent) in 1896.

Farmer had attended the Boston Cooking School, an institution which offered professional possibilities to woman during the post-Civil War era when few were available and more than ever were needed.

Her Cookbook incorporated the school’s scientific approach to create new type of a authoritative cookbook that contained precise directions, discussion of nutrition and caloric content. It opens by defining food, its basic constituent components like water and starch–including their chemical composition, before working its way up the food chain.

Her instructions included this precise recipe for breakfast cocoa, complete with technical terminology and instructions on proper frothing technique:

Farmer later trained dieticians and nurses and lectured at the Harvard Med School.

She also put scientific chops to work for another purpose–when chefs she visited refused to share their recipes, she took samples of food back to her lab for analysis.

You can read more of Farmer’s bio from the Historic American Cookbook Project. Also: an interview on historic cookbooks and cooking with the Old Foodie.

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