I’m talking about The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. This week, Marion Cunningham died. She revised the cookbook in the late 1970s, updating a classic for new generations of home cooks. I read her obituary with a tug of nostalgia. Most of my first cooking experiences included Fannie.
Edited by the legendary Judith Jones, best known for bringing us Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Cunningham’s cookbook champions everyday cooking. In her preface, she urges us to rediscover the pleasure of cooking from scratch: “Every meal should be a small celebration.” I love this ethos.
If you don’t already own a copy – or didn’t inherit one as I did from my grandmother, complete with sidebar pencil scratchings such as “Add capers,” or “Made for dinner 8/12/82. Good.” – then get one. Not that you necessarily want to make a Cheese Ball, Cocktail Frankfurters in Pastry, or even Tuna Noodle Casserole. Yes, this is true Americana. It’s the un-gourmet.
There are countless workhorse staples in this cookbook that you will turn to again and again. The first chapter, “About the Kitchen,” is an excellent primer for every home cook, full of advice on pantry basics and equipment. As you cook your way through The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, you can annotate the margins, bake cookies with an eight year-old, and hand down your copy when the time comes.
In honor of Marion Cunningham, I made blueberry muffins this morning. Blueberries abound in the market now, cheap and plentiful. My inner gourmet wanted to amp it up and add whole wheat flour and cornmeal for texture and health. But in deference to the master, and for my own Proustian event, I followed the recipe almost to the letter. Our house enjoyed them for breakfast. By lunch, they were all gone. Thank you, Ms. Cunningham.
Adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 1979 edition
Makes 12 muffins
If you want to eat these hot out of the oven for breakfast but feel daunted by the prospect of such an early morning endeavor, make these the night before and keep covered, unbaked, in the fridge. Replace ½ cup of the white flour with whole wheat and/or cornmeal if you like things more gritty. I couldn’t resist adding lemon zest because I like things sour. Use frozen blueberries if you can’t get fresh. No need to thaw them first.
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar, plus more for dusting
Zest of one lemon, grated or chopped fine
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup (1/4 liter) milk
¼ cup (4 tablespoons/60 grams) melted butter
1 cup blueberries
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter muffin tins or use paper liners. Mix 1¾ cups of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the egg, milk, and butter, stirring only enough to dampen the flour; the batter should not be smooth. Add the remaining ¼ cup of flour on the blueberries, gently turning to coat. Carefully fold in the blueberries into the batter. Spoon into the muffin tins, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each muffin. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden.