With a title that would never fly today, Fannie Farmer's The Boston Cooking School Cookbook first saw bookstore light in 1896. Its publisher doubted its chances for success and printed only 3,000 copies at the author's expense, but the cookbook took off, eventually selling more than four million copies. Living just a few blocks from Farmer's homestead, PBS America' Test Kitchen hosts Christopher Kimball became intrigued by the possibility, nay the challenge, of recreating one of Fannie's scrumptious 12-course 19th century Christmas feasts. Fannie's Last Supper describes how he did it, from the Duxbury Island Creek Oysters and Mock Turtle Soup, down to the Three Molded Victorian Jellies. Culinary history served with delicious venison and nostalgia. (P.S. To sample the vintage recreation, watch Barnes & Noble Studio video on the book.)
Fannie's Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbookby Christopher Kimball
In the mid-1990s, Chris Kimball moved into an 1859 Victorian townhouse on the South End of Boston and, as he became accustomed to the quirks and peculiarities of the house and neighborhood, he began to wonder what it was like to live and cook in that era. In particular, he became fascinated with Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Published in/i>
In the mid-1990s, Chris Kimball moved into an 1859 Victorian townhouse on the South End of Boston and, as he became accustomed to the quirks and peculiarities of the house and neighborhood, he began to wonder what it was like to live and cook in that era. In particular, he became fascinated with Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Published in 1896, it was the best-selling cookbook of its age-full of odd, long-forgotten ingredients, fascinating details about how the recipes were concocted, and some truly amazing dishes (as well as some awful ones).
In Fannie's Last Supper, Kimball describes the experience of re-creating one of Fannie Farmer's amazing menus: a twelve-course Christmas dinner that she served at the end of the century. Kimball immersed himself in composing twenty different recipes-including rissoles, Lobster À l'AmÉricaine, Roast Goose with Chestnut Stuffing and Jus, and Mandarin Cake-with all the inherent difficulties of sourcing unusual animal parts and mastering many now-forgotten techniques, including regulating the heat on a coal cookstove and boiling a calf's head without its turning to mush, all sans food processor or oven thermometer. Kimball's research leads to many hilarious scenes, bizarre tastings, and an incredible armchair experience for any reader interested in food and the Victorian era.
Fannie's Last Supper includes the dishes from the dinner and revised and updated recipes from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. A culinary thriller. it offers a fresh look at something that most of us take for granted-the American table.
The founder of Cook's Illustrated and host of America's Test Kitchen hosts an elaborate meal—a tasty time machine transporting readers back to the kitchens and dining rooms of Victorian America.
Kimball's journey comprises numerous detours. We learn about the purchase and conversion of his Boston home, the discovery and renovation of an 1890s coal/wood stove, the training and practice of his support staff and the seemingly endless testing of and tinkering with recipes. (Cost seems not to have been much of a factor.) The author ends each chapter with the final version of the recipe he used. Kimball instructs us about the history of American cookery, utensils, food products and the choreography of the Victorian kitchen staff. He underscores the enormous effort it took to acquire food, prepare it and clean up afterwards, and he emphasizes the paradox of the class system in a democracy. The author also perused countless cookbooks from the era, read newspaper articles and recipes and studied old maps of Boston—all eventually influenced his decisions about the preparation of his mega-meal. Kimball tells the story of Fannie Farmer, whose kitchen was near his home, but he doesn't think much of the aesthetic or gustatory pleasures of many of Farmer's recipes (he uses terms like "inedible"and "particularly vile" to describe some of them). He recognizes, though, that she took a big step in the evolution of contemporary cooking. The day of the meal finally arrived—an event that PBS filmed and will air in November 2010—and amid the hustle, bustle and incredible cookstove heat, people ate a lot and sang old Broadway hits afterward.
Even though some of Kimball's final clichéd observations and puffy epiphanies collapse like an ill-prepared pastry, he provides an appealing confection of cultural history, memoir and culinary instruction.
The New York Times
- Hachette Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 7.20(w) x 11.30(h) x 0.87(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
Meet the Author
Chris Kimball founded Cook's Magazine in 1980; it has grown to a paid circulation of 1,000,000. He hosts America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country, which are the top-rated cooking shows on public television, reaching 2 million viewers per week in over 94% of American households. Kimball is a regular contributor to both the Today Show and the CBS Early Show. He has been written up in most major newspapers, many national magazines including The New Yorker and Time, and regularly contributes to NPR's Morning Edition, including doing a regular Thanksgiving segment. He will also host a public radio show on cooking starting in the fall of 2010.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is a must have for anyone who owns a Fannie Farmer cookbook. It is a fascinating account of the recreation of the last menu in Fannie Farmer's 1896 cook book. The beautiful photographs bring out the sumptuousness of the multi-course meal. It's amazing to realize what care went into the production of a dinner party meal.
A fun filled, book with an easy to read history on the wonderful world of food and the recreation of a late 19th century kitchen.This is a must have for Fannie Farmer devotees whose cookbooks have been relied upon for over a century.
I loved the combination of culinary history an some great recipes. Definitely worth the price and the read.