NEW PRINTING OF AN 1896 COOKBOOK – Marilyn Armstrong

The Boston Cooking School

The predecessor to all the great Fannie Farmer cookbooks that would be printed over the next 50 years, this was the one I really wanted most. It was out of print for a long time, but now, it’s back in print and also on Kindle. However, cookbooks have to be something I can bring into the kitching without worrying about them getting wet or covered with flour or batter.

I finally ordered it. First, I had to move out some other cookbooks that I don’t use, some of which were duds in the first place. As a warning, never buy any cookbook that starts with “365 Ways to …”  The recipes are typically mediocre and sometimes a lot worse than that. However, whenever I traveled, I always bought one or more cookbooks. Sometimes they turned out to be fantastic. Sometimes uninspiring. I always thought the best souvenir you can bring home from someplace you loved than their food. So I have Caribbean cook books, Maine cookbooks, Cape Cod, Chinese. One book entirely devoted to rice and another devoted to people who can’t cook at all which I hoped would convince my husband to give it a try.

Nope. But he did laugh a lot, so I suppose it was worth the money just for that.

This one is a treasure. It’s available in hardcover. As a book, the only thing wrong with it is that it’s small so the type is small. If you are me, there’s a good deal of squinting involved.

Also (and this is not a problem but the inevitable result of buying a cookbook written before modern kitchens were invented) is you have to figure out how much of something no one uses any more equals whatever it is we use now. For example, how much dry yeast is in a cake of yeast? Answer: about a teaspoon and a quarter of dry yeast.

The book starts off by teaching you how to build a proper fire for baking in a wood-fired stove. I enjoy doing things the old-fashioned way, but not quite that old-fashioned. I wouldn’t mind a gas oven, though. I think natural gas produces a more stable heat with natural convection.

I live in an area where there is no natural gas. If you want gas, you have to buy big canisters and then you are cooking with propane, which is not nearly as hot as natural gas. So electric it is. My oven runs cool and I have learned from hard experience to bake hotter and for at least five to ten minutes longer than the recipe calls for.

One of the nicest things about this cookbook is that the recipes don’t call for any expensive gadgets. An eggbeater is an advanced cooking item in this book and I’m pretty sure most cooks didn’t own one. You needed strong arms and muscular wrists. It also helped if you didn’t mind getting burned a bit. Also, it contains a lot of recipes for everything from Parker House rolls to egg sandwiches.

In the very back of the book are lots of old advertisements for kitchen and other household goods. Hub ranges (wood-fired) and King Arthur Flour, which I still stock and it’s my favorite flour. Some things never change.

It’s available on Amazon and I’m sure elsewhere as well. It’s worth the price at just under $11 in hardcover.


Categories: baking, Book Review, Books, Cooking, Food, Kitchen, Marilyn Armstrong, Recipes

Tags: , , , ,

17 replies

  1. I learned to cook on my mother’s gas stove, but when I was 19, married, and living in a wooden cabin, we had an oil stove. I think the temperature settings were hot, hotter, and hottest. I actually cooked bread on that stove, although the first loaf took until the wee hours of the morning when I was too sleepy to be interested in cutting the first slice! I love the electric stove now, with its flat cooktop!


    • My stove is just very slow and it’s a lot of electricity to make a couple of loaves of bread. So I’ve been looking for a replacement for my countertop oven, but they don’t make mine anymore and I’m afraid if I order it, I’ll never actually SEE it.


  2. How build a proper fire in a wood burning stove…now that is priceless….


  3. I used Fannie Farmer’s cook book for years. Sometimes that was the only book in our kitchen. Yep I surely could see that those recipes were made for folks out working in the fields all day. They were rich and laden with carbos. BUT boy did they taste good!


    • I have a Paul Prudhomme cookbook I bought in New Orleans. Some of those recipes would probably put people into a coma. The amount of fat and sugar is staggering. I’m assuming that was not intended as daily diet food but rather for special occasions.


  4. I think the old ads might be as much fun as the old recipes!


  5. I really enjoyed this post, Marilyn. I love to bake and cook and so does my youngest son. Every now and then my husband with try his hand at cooking too. He isn’t bad when he puts his mind to it. I have two old cookbooks. One is from 1901 during the South African war and it includes recipes on making medicines and poultices for coughs, bruises and other medical problems. The other is from 1950 and is an English cookbook. I use it all the time and have become very good at converting pints, ounces and pounds into ml and grams.


    • Google is a very good translator, too, I had not idea how much yeast was in a “cake” of yeast and apparnetly I was not alone. Finding the right heat settings may be a little more interesting because woodstoves were not known for accuracy. But then, neither is MY stove. Finding a point between the two will be interesting.

      But the recipes are interesting and if you can get past the small type, exactly what I’d hoped for. I think until I’m ready to deal with heavy squinting, I’m going to use my (old) copy of “Beard on Bread” because it always worked for me in the past and since (used books are wonderful) I have a replacement to my missing copy, I’ll try that first. In fact, I think today is going to be a “whole wheat with bulgur” day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Marilyn, since the covid virus, our habits have got better, learning to cook is now the new norm, giving space is becoming natural, you’d think we were back in the 19th century, keep on baking great cakes, those birds are at the window, will you put in more fruit please.. stay well, amen


    • Fruit has, sadly been hard to find. All we can get is locally grown and there’s not a lot of it. Many of our farms have closed. The farmers got old and their kids have moved on, so the people who bought the farms are more interested in the beauty of the land than actual farming. But I’m hoping as the season progresses, there will be more choices. You stay well, too!


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