Fannie in the Kitchen
July 27, 2004
Marcia enjoys being her mother's helper, so she's hurt when Mother hires Fannie Farmer to prepare family's meals. But sure enough Fannie's charm (and griddle cakes!) win Marcia over, and she finds herself cooking up delights she never thought possible!
Young Marcia Shaw is not thrilled to hear that a mother's helper named Fannie Farmer is joining her Victorian household to cook for the growing family. Somehow, though, it's hard to complain when suddenly the blueberry pies are "sweeter than a summer sky" and the biscuits are "small, light, and flaky. Just delicious." In spite of herself, Marcia quickly becomes an avid fan and ardent student of Fannie, even encouraging her to begin writing precise instructions to her cookery magic, thus spawning one of the first published cookbooks, Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, a.k.a. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
Considered the pioneer of the modern recipe, Fannie Farmer transformed countless kitchens into oases of exact measurements and perfect cooking. Deborah Hopkinson's fictionalized account, complete with original griddle cakes recipe, is a warm, humorous take on the real Fannie Farmer. Nancy Carpenter created splendidly original illustrations for the book, manipulating 19th-century etchings and engravings and blending them with her own watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations. Wonderful! (Ages 4 to 8) --Emilie Coulter--
From Publishers Weekly
Prepared to perfection and served up with style, this historical nugget imagines an interlude in the life of cookbook pioneer Fannie Farmer, who, prior to her stint at the Boston Cooking School, worked as a mother's helper. As Hopkinson (Maria's Comet) envisions it, the daughter of the house--who has a touch of the Eloise gene--is not at all pleased with Fannie's arrival. "I'm your helper," the spunky Marcia protests to her mother, but she soon becomes an acolyte: "Fannie seemed like a magician who could make mashed potatoes fluffier than clouds and blueberry pies sweeter than a summer sky." Marcia's many culinary flops, on the other hand, from discovering that she has cracked a rotten egg into her batter to flipping a griddle cake onto the cat, ultimately inspire the unflappable Fannie to write down precise instructions in a precursor to her immortal cookbook. Cleverly served up in seven brief "courses," the proceedings are garnished with Carpenter's irreverent illustrations, which seamlessly incorporate period engravings within pen-and-wash drawings. Her scenes wittily spoof Victorian decorum, whether showing the perfectly coiffed and coutured lady of the house greedily licking her plate or the initially sullen Marcia, slumped in a chair with her back to the reader, her scowl reflected in a pair of water glasses, a gravy boat and a decanter. The biographical afterword and an appended pancake recipe are simply icing on the (griddle) cake. Ages 4-9. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-Fannie Farmer is often cited as the creator of the modern recipe. She worked as a mother's helper for the Shaw family in Boston and this fictionalized account, told through the eyes of the young Marcia Shaw, follows her tenure with them. The illustrations are a combination of 19th-century engravings and etchings and the illustrator's own drawings that were combined and manipulated with a computer and then water colored. This technique gives a sense of the time period while allowing wit and humor to be interwoven in the story (young Marcia balances a cake on her head before putting it in the oven, and the proper Mrs. Shaw can be seen licking her plate clean). The playful nature of both the illustrations and the text is appealing, and serves to draw readers into the story. The short biographical sketch, "More about Fannie Farmer," helps to round out the account, and a recipe for griddle cakes, which play a significant role in the tale, is included. In a time of celebrity chefs on television, this is a whimsical look back to when it all began.-Genevieve Ceraldi, New York Public Library. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Ages 5-8. Here's a clever introduction to the renowned nineteenth-century cook who "invented recipes with precise measurements." Marcia enjoys being her mother's helper, so she's hurt and resentful when Mother hires a young woman named Fannie Farmer to prepare meals. Although she tries, Marcia can't resist Fannie's delectable dishes. Besides, cooking Fannie's way seems like fun, and with Fannie's guidance Marcia proudly achieves culinary success of her own. Aptly divided into "courses" ("Fourth Course: The Egg Disaster"), the book's lively, descriptive prose conveys Marcia's frustrations and joys as she fries, bakes, and measures her way to triumph. Helpful kitchen tips from early editions of the real Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook abound in dialogue and appear in "Fannie's Hints," cleverly framed and hung like pictures on the walls of Marcia's home. The collage artwork is exceptional--elegant as well as whimsical. Carpenter brings together original pen-and-ink artwork and engravings, all washed in watercolor, to create a houseful of expressive characters and abundant, often witty details that capture aspects of Victorian life and excess. A recipe for Fannie's griddlecakes and some background on Farmer round out this delightfully humorous story about cooking and personal achievement. Shelle Rosenfeld
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