Synopses & Reviews
In the mid-1990s, Chris Kimball moved into an 1859 Victorian townhouse on the South End of Boston and, as he became accustomed to the quirks and peculiarities of the house and neighborhood, he began to wonder what it was like to live and cook in that era. In particular, he became fascinated with Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking-School Cook Book
. Published in 1896, it was the best-selling cookbook of its age-full of odd, long-forgotten ingredients, fascinating details about how the recipes were concocted, and some truly amazing dishes (as well as some awful ones).
In Fannie's Last Supper, Kimball describes the experience of re-creating one of Fannie Farmer's amazing menus: a twelve-course Christmas dinner that she served at the end of the century. Kimball immersed himself in composing twenty different recipes-including rissoles, Lobster À l'AmÉricaine, Roast Goose with Chestnut Stuffing and Jus, and Mandarin Cake-with all the inherent difficulties of sourcing unusual animal parts and mastering many now-forgotten techniques, including regulating the heat on a coal cookstove and boiling a calf's head without its turning to mush, all sans food processor or oven thermometer. Kimball's research leads to many hilarious scenes, bizarre tastings, and an incredible armchair experience for any reader interested in food and the Victorian era.
Fannie's Last Supper includes the dishes from the dinner and revised and updated recipes from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. A culinary thriller. it offers a fresh look at something that most of us take for granted-the American table.
"Kimball, founder of Cook's Illustrated and host of the PBS series America's Test Kitchen, spent more than two years of 'research, recipe testing, and intense planning' in order to host a Victorian dinner based on the recipes of Fannie Farmer, author of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, which was first published in 1896. Kimball is as exhaustive in his research as he is in one of his own test recipes for Cook's Illustrated, and fans of his work will appreciate his attention to even the smallest morsel of information. Kimball is off on a culinary and historical adventure as he literally traces Fannie Farmer's steps around Boston at the turn of the century, regaling the reader with a history of Boston, observations of the Victorian character, manner of dress, and cooking implements and appliances available. In the meantime, his own team has been assembled and they are methodically testing recipes and ingredients in Kimball's 1859 red-brick Boston bowfront. All this work culminates in a foodie's dream dinner party, complete with Victorian plate settings, an all-star guest list, and 12 courses you won't find in any restaurant today. A must-read for history buffs, home cooks, and professional chefs alike. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Kimball recreates an extravagant 12-course Christmas dinner taken from Fannie Farmer's "The Boston Cooking School Cookbook," published in 1896. The book ties in with a PBS special airing in November.
Before The Joy of Cooking, there was The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Written by Fannie Farmer, principal of the school, and published in 1896, it was the best-selling cookbook of its age. 400,000 copies were sold by Farmer's death in 1915 -- and more than 4 million were sold by the 1960s. It perfectly encapsulates the late Victorian era, but it's also surprisingly modern; in short, it's ripe for reevaluation. And who better to conduct such an experiment than Chris Kimball, founder of Cook's Illustrated and host of PBS's America's Test Kitchen?
Fannie's Last Supper is the result. In it, Kimball assembles an extravagant twelve-course Christmas dinner from Farmer's cookbook and serves it in an 1859 Boston townhouse, complete with an authentic Victorian home kitchen, uniformed maids, and a distinguished guest list. The menu includes Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing, Canton Punch, Three Molded Victorian Jellies, and Mandarin Cake. But Kimball includes more than just the dinner party's dishes -- Fannie's Last Supper is a working cookbook with forty tested, rewritten, updated recipes drawn from Farmer's opus.
It's a culinary thriller of sorts, traveling back in time to reexamine something most of us take for granted: the American table.
About the Author
"Chris Kimball founded Cook's Magazine in 1980. Now known as Cook's Illustrated, it has a paid circulation of 1,000,000. He also hosts America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country, the top-rated cooking shows on public television. He lives in Boston.