Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A Tour of My Great Grandmother's 1910 Fannie Farmer Cookbook

Today we're going to take a walk back in time and take a look at my Great Grandmother's Fannie Farmer cookbook.  My Great Grandmother passed away in 1977 when I was two, but I do have very slight memories of her.  My mother (her granddaughter-in-law) adored her and often went to visit and cooked lunch for her at her house.  The paperwork inside the book dates from 1910 to 1976.

I would rate this book as being in excellent condition AND heavily used.

Let's flip open the front cover.

First of all, we're going to clean our woodwork.  1 cup hot water, 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup coal oil. Rub on, rub off!!!

Then let's make kidney stew:

  • Soak kidney 1/2 hr in vinegar
  • Wash and cut up
  • Roll in flour and brown in hot fat
  • Cook 25 min
  • Thicken gravy if necessary
  • Season with salt
  • Add Worcestershire sauce if preferred (she erased and rewrote Worcestershire, I got an assist from spell check).

On the other side of the front cover there is a pamphlet and a letter, which we are going to take out so that we can see her signature.  June 1910 was the month that she got married, and for the purposes of this post we're going to pretend that the name is Christine Jones Smith (it's something pretty close to that).

The letter and the pamphlet are both too big to account for the white block on the signature page so something else was kept in the front cover of this book for a long time.

Let's start with the letter, which is the oldest item in the book.  It's postmarked May 13, 1910 from San Fransisco with a one cent stamp and addressed to Miss Christine Jones, Irvington Cal.  Street address not necessary, and we're a long way away from zip codes.

Inside the envelope is a brochure for a ten day trip to Yosemite Valley, all expenses included for $38.

Let's get more deets on Yosemite.  Here's the inside cover...oh wait the $38 does not include lunch on the train.  There's always a catch.

There's a reply card in the envelope

Postage not included

The mystery stands: she saved the letter for some reason, and I'm taking a stab in the dark, but possibly she went to Yosemite for her honeymoon?  But she didn't send the reply card, so did she book the trip by a phone call or letter?  Or did she skip the $38 all inclusive trip and go another way?

Next up let's look at the pamphlet that was inside the front cover.  We've moved forward to May 1918 and it seems that I am not the only Chaplin fan in the family.  I have not seen A Dog's Life, but I've heard that it's some picture.  With a cast of 100 and 4 months to produce, how could it not be?  But man, a million dollars sounds like a pretty extreme budget for a movie back then.  I smell a rat.

Inside we get Chaplin's life story, and the answer to the million dollar mystery.  "His first million dollar picture" refers to a contract for eight movies, and a Dog's Life was the first movie Chaplin produced under this contract.  Plus a $75,000 bonus.  Cha-ching!

Here is the life story in 12 parts:

5'4", 120 pounds, 29 with graying hair.  Ladies, he's single!

The back page lets us know that we can see continuous showings of Chaplin's life story from 11AM to 11PM for one week starting on May 15.  Not to be cynical, but I'm guessing that "he will be here" means "a movie about him will be here" and that Chaplin probably wasn't doing 12 hour personal appearances for an entire week.  The show prices range from 15 to 30 cents, and war tax is extra.

Ok, we're through the front cover, let's go inside.  My Great Grandmother pasted in a newspaper picture of Fannie Farmer with the note "from S.F. Chronicle Oct 6, 1976".  This is the "newest" addition that she made to her cookbook.

Next we have the cover page.  The inscription says "Purchased at S.F. Emporium June 1910".

And now we're on page one and we're going to start with a lesson in nutrition.

On the next page we learn how much the average adult should eat: 4 1/2 oz proteid (protein I presume), 2 oz fat, 18 oz carbohydrate, and 5 pints of water.  Please note that brain workers should take their proteid in a form easily digested.

You know I'm a numbers person, so let's dig into it.  5 pints of water is 10 cups but one third of it is coming from food so we're only aiming for 6-7 cups of beverages a day.  Now let's unpack the macros.  One ounce is 28 grams, protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram.

The math tells us that Paleo was not a thing in 1910.  We're aiming for 3,000 calories and All The Carbs, though women as a rule require less food even though they do the same amount of work as men.

Alright, we're done talking about nutrition, let's cook!  Lesson one:

Hmm...it seems that cooking was a bit more work in 1910 and it looks like we're going to be needing those extra calories.

Once we've got our stoves lighted, it's time to cook.  Food photography has come a long way, but food presentation styles have gone in the opposite direction.

I had to look at the recipes to make sense of what I was seeing.  First up: stuffed eggplant.

And then the puree of spinach

The book closes with several pages of ads.  The best cooks use them, why don't you?


Next up is the back cover, where we find more treasures from my Great Grandmother.  It's 1933 now and we're adding to the cook book of Mrs. Slim Purse.

On the other side of the page it's 1947.

On the back cover there's a note:

I wasn't sure what a 3 in 1 lightening shredder was, and Google helped me out.  It's what I would define as a cheese/carrot grater.  I see one on eBay that has separate sections for large shreds, small shreds, and slices, but most of them only have one size of holes even though they're stamped 3 in 1 lightening shredder at the top.  Did they come in sets of threes?  I can't find a wiki and I have questions.

There's one final recipe on the inside back cover.  I can see that something is written under the clipping, but I don't recognize the handwriting and I don't want to remove the recipe.  For all I know it could be the clue to finding the long lost family fortune.  But I'll settle for the cookbook.

But wait there's more...

In addition to my Great Grandmother's 1910 Fannie Farmer cookbook, I also have my Grandmother's 1936 Fannie Farmer cookbook.

Family lore says that my Grandmother did not like to cook, and exhibit A is that the cookbook is in near pristine condition.

Instead of an entire chapter, we have an entire paragraph about nutrition in 1936.  We don't even have to eat them, we just have to put the so-called protective foods regularly on our marketing lists.

We also don't need to learn how to build a fire or blacken our stoves any more.  Life in 1936 is looking pretty good.

Stuffed eggplant and puree of spinach are no longer photo worthy, but I know you want the updated recipes.  We now have not one but two versions of stuffed eggplant but we've lost the fancy garnish for our pureed spinach.



Sadly my Grandmother did not leave a trove of paperwork in her cookbook.  There are a few recipe cards here and there, plus this handy advice.

The flip side of the card

And then we have the closing ads.  In 1910 we were aiming for the stove that the best cooks use, but in 1936 there's just no excuse for those dishpan hands.  They're as bad as dirty nails and everybody will talk crap about you.  You can avoid that for less than one cent a day!


  1. This is amazing, Birchie!!!
    Now I'm all nostalgic. Wouldn't it be nice if we could go back in time and experience life in 1910?
    I guess some of it would be quite frustrating for us. Imagine making a fire every time you want to cook...
    My mum used to have a something similar to a "3 in 1 grater". I remember that she could switch the grating "panels" with different sized holes. My sister nearly grated off one of her fingertips with it once.

  2. Wow, what a treasure this is! I absolutely love looking at stuff like this. When my grandma passed I inherited a giant book entitled The Woman's Book - Everything A Woman Ought To Know and if you want to know how to deal with home medicine or servants, this book has information for you!

  3. This is fascinating, and what a previous keepsake! My grandmothers both were gardeners & great cooks/bakers. My mom...not so much LOL

  4. This is awesome, and the fact that it's from your FAMILY makes it even more awesome! I used to collect old cookbooks with pictures of food I would be hard-pressed to eat in even the most dire circumstances. They're hilarious. For more laughs, I recommend the Gallery of Regrettable Food: https://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/
    (warning: Don't look at this if you're actually eating...)