Traditional Cookbook Keeps Readers and Stomachs Happy

I originally planned on reviewing three books at three different age and interest levels, but when I started talking about The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, I could not stop. It’s just that good, and it’s useful for ages five on up. My children started using the book with me as soon as they could help me cook and, at 24 years old, my eldest still comes to her friend “Fannie” when she has a cooking question. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is more than just a book to me. We’ve been inseparable since I was about 12 years old. They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, I think hunger is the necessity of cooking, and I was hungry. It started when I wanted an after-school snack, and I found that her fruit tarts hit the spot. Then, by Thanksgiving time, it was left to me to cook the meal. Fanny Farmer came to the rescue with recipes, charts, drawings and suggestions. With her help, I was able to cook the entire meal on my own. As I spread my cooking wings, Fanny stayed faithfully by my side, giving me the basics and bits of advice that I needed as a foundation for creating dishes that matched my tastes and preferences. When I became a mother, Fanny hung around, providing recipes for treats the whole family can make together. The newest edition came out this year, but major changes were made in 1990. I was hesitant to trade in my well-loved copy for the new one, but my old copy was in pieces, so I decided to give the new book a try. I was delighted to find that the new version, not only still contained all the great stuff from my version, but it also had some wonderful new additions including whole new sections of vegetarian and microwave recipes. The author of the recent additions, Marion Cunningham, painstakingly tested these recipes and only includes the ones that she was able to perfect for taste, texture and appearance. Although a majority of the microwave recipes are for fish and vegetables, there are some recipes for cooking basics such as white sauce. My family loves homemade macaroni and cheese, and usually that involves constantly stirring a pot for about 10 minutes or so while trying to keep an eye on the cooking macaroni. Her microwave recipe is quicker and easier. I tried it out, and we couldn’t tell the difference. I was grateful to discover that the new Fannie Farmer Cookbook still contains almost everything that the previous editions have. There are conveniently placed conversion charts and basic recipes on the inside cover. Another very useful quality of the book is that there are a multitude of illustrations. The book has illustrations of most of the bases of your cooking. There are sections that show various types of fish and crustaceans. There’s even an illustration of various vegetables. You’ll also find diagrams that show you the origin of cuts of meat. My favorite illustrations though are those of the how-to variety. I cannot remember a time that I’ve decided to cook a recipe and haven’t been able to figure out exactly how to do it — the illustrations are that helpful and that prevalent. One of my favorite parts of the cookbook is the comments. The author lets you know more about the origins of the recipe or helpful hints on what type of accompaniments go well with it. There are, of course, some downsides. One of them is the sheer size of the book. It’s almost 900 pages, and it’s heavy. That’s a lot of book to carry around considering most of us either eat prepared food or look up recipes online. Another downside is the cost. Although I thought it was a deal, it may be a more expensive investment than you care to make. And, if you are a metric user, you will be disappointed to find that this edition has deleted all of the metric conversions in its recipes. To sum it up, this can be a very useful book for you. I’m not one to sit and read a cookbook, but this one is truly readable. It’s a great book for an adult or young person who wants to learn how to cook. The book really does take a person step-by-step through the process of creating a recipe. If you love to add your own personal touches to recipes, buying this book would also be a great idea; you can add notes to the pages and have all your recipes and notes in one book, as opposed to trying to organize printouts or remember what you did last time to make your food taste so good. I’ve spent many happy hours (and mealtimes) with The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and I hope you do too.

Tags: Reader's Lounge, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

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