Iron Chef meets 1900 House in Chris Kimball’s recreation of a 12-course Christmas dinner originally hosted by Fannie Farmer in 1896
"Chris’s ‘Fannie’ project is the most ambitious cooking undertaking I’ve ever witnessed outside of a restaurant opening. And as one of the devourers of the ultimate meal, I can tell you it was worth it, at least for me. (I would travel 200 miles for the jellies alone.) But the account of the making of the meal, told here in winning style, is just as impressive: part history and part contemporary journalism, it’s a fascinating story, and absolutely unique."
--Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything
"What a piece of work Christopher Kimball has pulled off. Read this book and join the escapade into what Chris calls the most progressive era in the history of the world. No, it wasn't ten years ago, it was 110 years ago -- the world of Victorian America and Fanny Farmer. Not an iota of dreamy pseudo-food history survives here. Instead, Chris challenges, provokes, entertains, and maybe even outrages our sensibilities. One thing is sure, if he gets his way, you will be rethinking some of today's accepted political culinary wisdom."
--Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Host of The Splendid Table
“Fannie’s Last Supper is a splendid book with recipes and narrative that is based on a twelve-course dinner right out of the back pages of the original 1896 Boston School Cookbook written by Fannie Farmer. How fantastic is that -- traveling back in time to rethink the cooking of the future. A great, informative read with tempting recipes. Bravo!”
--Lidia Bastianich, author of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
“A dynamic and entertaining book for chefs and home cooks alike. Christopher Kimball delves into the life, times, and recipes of Fannie Farmer, and creates an educational and delicious twelve-course menu that any food lover can sink their teeth into.”
--Daniel Humm, Executive Chef, Madison Park
FROM FANNIE FARMER’S CLASSIC 1896 COOKBOOK…
FANNIE’S LAST SUPPER
By Christopher Kimball
“Part history and part contemporary journalism, this is a fascinating story
and absolutely unique.”
—Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything
“A foodie’s dream dinner party, complete with Victorian plate settings,
an all-star guest list, and twelve courses you won't find in any restaurant today.
A must-read for history buffs, home cooks, and professional chefs alike.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An appealing confection of cultural history, memoir, and culinary instruction.”
Christopher Kimball, founder of America’s Test Kitchen, wanted to understand the many contradictions posed by America’s culinary past such as the rush to convenience foods born out of a from-scratch culinary heritage and the hodgepodge mixing of bad English cookery with the recipes of Escoffier.
But researching old cookbooks, magazine, and newspaper articles doesn’t always tell the whole story. Instead, he decided to cook his way back through history—investigating the ingredients and the techniques of late nineteenth century America, making the puddings, the soups, the roasts, the jellies, and the cakes. He then gave himself a final exam—a twelve-course Victorian blowout dinner party, served in his 1859 Boston townhouse, complete with an authentic Victorian home kitchen and a distinguished guest list, all filmed for an upcoming public television special.
Kimball’s muse was The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, written by Fannie Farmer and published in 1896. It was the best-selling cookbook of its age—400,000 copies were sold by 1915; 4 million sold by the 1960s—and was ripe for reevaluation. Two years later, after meticulous research, recipes, and taste tests, FANNIE’S LAST SUPPER: Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook by Christopher Kimball, will be published by Hyperion Books (October 5, 2010; Hardcover; $25.99).
In FANNIE’S LAST SUPPER, Kimball describes the experience of re-creating one of Fannie Farmer’s extravagant menus: a twelve-course holiday dinner that spanned a wide range of Victorian cookery, from oysters, rissoles, soup, venison, and lobster to goose, salmon, fried artichokes, sorbet, jellies, cake, and a final cheese course. Kimball immersed himself in the full experience of managing close to twenty different recipes—including Rissoles (filled and fried puff pastry), Mock Turtle Soup with Fried Brain Balls, Lobster à l’Américaine, Roast Goose with Chestnut Stuffing and Jus, Wood-Grilled Salmon, Roast Saddle of Venison, Canton Punch, Three Molded Victorian Jellies, and a spectacular French-inspired Mandarin Cake—all prepared in a Victorian kitchen complete with an authentic 1880s coal cookstove.
The recipes required mastering many now-forgotten techniques, including regulating the heat on a cast-iron coal stove and simmering calves’ brains without turning them to mush—all without the benefit of modern appliances. Sourcing the unusual ingredients and implements led to some hilarious scenes—all described in the book—bizarre tastings, and a truly cozy armchair thriller for readers interested in food and the Victorian era.
Cooking for the dinner party started on Tuesday, November 3, 2009—two years after the project began—and was completed before the twelve guests arrived on Saturday night, November 7th, 2009. Kimball brings to life each course, the preparation of his hard-working crew, and the guests’ reaction and opinions. Readers will feel like they, too, had a seat at the table for Fannie’s Last Supper.
The documentary, Fannie’s Last Supper, produced by Christopher Kimball,
will air on public television stations across the country in November and December
(check local listings). This special details not only the cooking and serving of the dinner itself, but travels back in time to investigate the life of Fannie Farmer and the world of 1890s Victorian cooking, including the foods, the cookware, and the kitchens, in an effort to connect the present to the past.
And, in fact, FANNIE’S LAST SUPPER is also a working cookbook with forty tested, rewritten, and updated recipes drawn from Farmer’s opus. Each dish from the dinner, with revised and updated recipes from The Boston Cooking School Cook Book is also included in the book.
A culinary thriller, FANNIE’S LAST SUPPER travels back in time to reexamine something most home cooks take for granted: the American dinner table.
FANNIE’S LAST SUPPER
Re-creating One Amazing Meal from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook
By Christopher Kimball
Published by Hyperion Books • Hardcover • $25.99
Publication date: October 5, 2010 • ISBN: 978-1-4013-2322-6
Access press materials electronically at: www.HyperionMediaNet.com
Author interviews and reviews: Deborah Broide