Fannie Merritt Farmer, Standardizer of Measurements For Recipes, born

Born on March 23, 1857, Bostonian Fannie Merritt Farmer significantly influenced the way Americans cook.

By standardizing measurements in her recipes, Farmer guaranteed her readers reliable results. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook became a classic kitchen text. Now in its thirteenth edition, the cookbook remains a popular home cooking reference.

While a young woman, Farmer enrolled in the Boston Cooking School. After graduating in 1889, she became assistant director of the school. Within five years Farmer was at the helm, and, in 1896, she published the first edition of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook, today known as Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

I always was cooking. I can't remember when I didn't know how. My mother was a corking cook. She could boil a ten-penny nail and make it taste good. I took after her. I could make cakes, light as a feather and I was a master hand at pie crusts. My tart shells would melt in your mouth; if I do say it myself. Everybody made jelly then and tarts was a favorite dessert. You never see a tart nowadays.”

— Mary Anne Meehan

Fannie published her most well-known work, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, in 1896. Her cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement. A follow-up to an earlier version called Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book, published by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884, the book under Farmer's direction eventually contained 1,849 recipes, from milk toast to Zigaras à la Russe. Farmer also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning and drying fruits and vegetables, and nutritional information.

The book's publisher (Little, Brown & Company) did not predict good sales and limited the first edition to 3,000 copies, published at the author's expense. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the "Fannie Farmer cookbook", and it is still available in print over 100 years later.