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Fannie's Last Supper: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook Hardcover – October 5, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
First, the book is positioned as a tribute to Fannie Farmer, yet Kimball has no respect for her. He refers to her constantly as not much of a cook, but as a great businesswoman. He calls her "middle class at best". He denies her claim to being "the mother of level measurements" based on little more evidence than his feeling that the claim is "apocryphal". And he just flat-out doesn't like her recipes.
Kimball not only rewrites the recipes he does use (which I was expecting), he often goes and uses some other recipe entirely: for example, the lobster l'Americaine is based on Gordon Ramsay's recipe. Fannie Farmer's cake recipes are "rather uninspired", so off he goes to an 1888 French cake book for Mandarin Cake instead. The subtitle ought to be "Creating One Amazing Meal from a Couple of Recipes in Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook and Lots of Other Recipes I Like More". A lot of the recipes do look good, but making a bunch of non-Fannie Farmer recipes is simply not what the book claims to be about.
Kimball may be a good cook, but he's clearly not much of a historian. Each chapter begins with a little historical essays on some aspect of 19th-century cooking, Fannie Farmer, or Boston generally. The essays are disorganized and packed full of unrelated factoids; often the entire essay has little or nothing to do with the rest of the chapter. Why do we need to read three pages on Boston clubs, for instance (other than to find out that Kimball belongs to one)?Read more ›
It was a few days before I figured that out, though. I started by reading from the beginning, at the author's story of buying an 1859 Victorian bowfront in Boston. It was, apparently, not a pleasant place to live, with drug dealers on the sidewalk and a working girl with a customer in the neighbor's doorway. The author confronted drug dealers, got ripped off by neighborhood children, and joined a historical society, and his family was robbed at gunpoint and attended a gay wedding, though not at the same time.
All this might make an interesting book, and if I had wanted to read about relocating to South Boston in the 1990s I might have enjoyed it. Eventually I got to the first recipe, Victoria Punch, "courtesy of Donald Friary", who is "an expert on punch and punch bowls and a fellow member of Boston's St. Botolph Club". This was a bit of a surprise since Fannie Farmer had 15 punch recipes, including one for Victoria Punch which has nothing in common with Friary's. But Friary's recipe looks far less sweet and contains ingredients which would probably be easier to find, so perhaps that's the reason for the substitution.
The next chapter introduces Fannie Farmer a bit. "For starters, she was middle-class at best," it begins.Read more ›
We do learn from him that Fannie was not much of a cook and in his opinion her recipes are completely unpalatable to modern taste. It seems strange that a book that titles itself "Creating one amazing meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 Cookbook" uses little if any of her recipes; even going so far as to search out and use Gordon Ramsay for the lobster a l'americaine. Kimball even rejects Fannie's method of folding over the puff pastry for the rissoles. Fannie certainly does not come out well for a work that purports to be celebrating her.
The descriptions of dealing with calf heads, brains and eyes are not for the faint hearted, nor are the descriptions of killing the lobsters.
There is much fine and interesting historical information here about food preparation and the daily toil of keeping a home in the Victorian era. Kimball does have a most depressing summation on the lack of good utilization that modern people put their time to use - gained by labor saving devices, inventions and prepared food.
If you are interested in the Victorian era in America and especially of Boston, this book would be of interest to you. Dedicated cooks would also enjoy this experiment in food preparation and dining.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed reading this find! I would purchase from this retailer again!Published 4 months ago by Gracie Ramirez
Kimball's idea to re-create a great Victorian meal was indeed clever. Not so clever was the idea to use Fannie's cookbook, then find it necessary to re-write many of the receipts... Read morePublished 15 months ago by R. Parsons
Uneven writing and bad editing. But even great editing couldn't have hidden the writer's atrocious snobbery, horrifying pretentiousness, and the fact that he is utterly clueless... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Amatullah
Well, this little book was quite the culinary education! For fans of all things Victoriana, this one definitely needs to be in your library. Read morePublished 20 months ago by EpicFehlReader
I received this book on a Thursday and had finished it by Sunday. At once a history book, the story of a journey, and a recipe book. Absolutely delightful. You can count on Mr. Read morePublished 23 months ago by J. Cole
Not a page burner. For me, there's just a bit too much of a smug undertone to the author's constant references to his amazing, historically correct Boston house, Vermont farm, and... Read morePublished on July 4, 2014 by UrbanMonique
I purchased this book for a friend. She really likes it. She said it is great reading. She would recommend it to anyone interested in cooking history.Published on June 17, 2014 by Lois V. Peters