When my dad’s heart attack necessitated moving my parents to an assisted living facility, I found myself in the unenviable position of both liquidator and client. The one bedroom apartment they would now call home could hold very little of the contents of the sprawling three bedroom house filled with the accumulation from 64 years of marriage. It was time to down-size.
After Mom and Dad had selected the items they would take with them, I gathered the family members together to have each of them select some items that they would like to have from the house. One at a time, small groups of items were assembled and as this long and emotional day came to a close we happened upon a kitchen drawer that brought both tears and laughter. It’s cherished and well-worn contents held a different memory for each of us, for it was the drawer where Mom stored her cookbooks.
From 1896, when Fannie Farmer wrote her, now famous, “Boston Cooking School Cookbook” to the Rachael Ray and Wolfgang Puck years of present day, the cookbook has long been a staple in the kitchens of America. Farmer’s book was by no means the first cookbook. Books of recipes have been with us since Colonial times. But, it was Farmer who brought a scientific approach to meal preparation with precise measurements and detailed instructions. No more a pinch of this, or a dash of that. “The Boston Cooking School Cookbook” sent everyone scurrying to the store for measuring spoons and cups. Today’s recipe books still use her formula for outlining recipes.
By 1906 food companies were putting their nutritional experts to work compiling their specialties for print. By the 1920s Martha Lee Anderson of Arm & Hammer and Ann Pillsbury of Pillsbury Flour were household names and cooking, once considered a chore, was transformed into a domestic art.