Fannie Farmer once cooked for the American housewife, but now cooks for the modern household. First published in 1896, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is an encyclopaedia of all things edible, past and present. No studio images or high-gloss profile shots distract from the dense, how-to practicality of Fannie’s culinary insight, which melds old-country European methods with down-home country fare appropriate for 19th century melting pot America. Amongst the fleshy cartography of beef, pork and lamb, Fannie dedicates a half dozen pages to vegetable groups, copper cookery, baking supplies from over one hundred years, and several various table settings. A nutritionist, kitchen scientist and Harvard lecturer, Fannie retained copyright and built a small empire that started with her cooking tome. I like to think these are the pages that kick-started Martha.
I considered cooking one of Fannie’s recipes featuring brain (oh, yes please—brains with brown butter), but opted for a more appropriate representation of the American palate: the sandwich. Looking down from the across the 49th Parallel, there is nothing—from macaroni to freedom fries to melted “American” cheddar on Wonderbread™—that better represents the culinary tastes and style of our neighbours. A continent of goods sliced, spread and layered between two (or three) pieces of bread that, all together, can speak to the lifestyle, income, wellbeing and physique of any American diner.
Marked by Fannie as a timeless family favourite, I went for her club sandwich recipe, featuring both butter and mayonnaise on one side of each of the three slices of white bread. I improvised with Dijon and blue cheese and also added avocado and aged cheddar to the bacon, chicken and tomato, and then, for kicks, pesto. I forgot the sprouts…I meant to include them. The raisin rye tasted remarkably good thanks to the generous dash of cinnamon I mistook for pepper. After all, the goal was spontaneity and excess.
I don’t think Fannie, who was known as the mother of precise, level measurements, would have appreciated the accidents and improvisation thrust upon her sandwich, but she should be pleased to know that hers will become a staple cookbook in my kitchen.