Ten Books in Ten Days – Day 9 – The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

fannie famrer

I love cookbooks. I love reading them, looking at them, following up on ingredients, doing a kind of cultural geography through cooking. I don’t need to cook their recipes but I sometimes do. I learned to cook with The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. And I still have my tattered, split and dirty paperback I bought in the early 80s —- ‘First time in paperback!’ says the cover. I don’t think I’d even made myself a cup of coffee until I left home, so learning to cook was an imperative as I had no money. And Fannie Farmer taught me. I remember working at La Ronde and thinking all day about making the Rich Devil Food Cake recipe when I got home, and then cycling through the Jacques Cartier Bridge and realising I didn’t’t have cocoa, and stopping by every dépanneur from Hochelaga-Maisonneuve to Park Extension that looked open in search of cocoa, finally finding it, arriving to the Avenue du Parc apartment I shared with Michael Bailey, making that cake half asleep, staying up for the baking time and then having some of that hot cake with cold milk and feeling completely blissed out. In the morning I awoke to loud banging on the fire escape leading from the kitchen. It was the landlord, coming to collect his rent, which I’d forgotten about, and looking aghast at my kitchen: full of dust from flour, cocoa, and bits of chocolate icing that were smeared on the table, the floor, and seemed to be everywhere. That’s the kind of obsessions cookbooks can lead to.

José Arroyo

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