Three Ways to Develop Good Cooking Habits – Advice from Fannie Farmer

I recently ran across The Fannie Farmer Cookbook in an antique store. This book was originally published in 1896. Fannie Farmer’s name is still well-known today.

Fannie gave advice about cooking habits before giving any recipes in her cookbook. There may be some wisdom in that strategy. Here are three ways to develop good cooking habits that are still surprisingly relevant today.

Firstly, read the whole recipe before doing anything. This shows what you will do—think about the reasons why.  Preparation and/or baking times are included in most modern recipes; give yourself plenty of time to prevent becoming flustered.

When making a complete meal, decide what dishes can be prepared ahead of time—such as dessert. Consider your menu. What dish will take longest to prepare? This will help decide when preparations for the meal should begin. Study any unfamiliar recipes ahead of time.

Secondly, think about the season of the year when planning meals. Produce and meat are at their flavorful peak when fresh. Shop at the market for ingredients that are in season or “on special.” Don’t get your heart set on a particular recipe before finding what’s available at the grocery store. Fresh products make more flavorful dishes, so learn to be flexible.

Thirdly, don’t scorn leftovers. Instead, use your imagination to make a new dish.

Fannie advises deliberately preparing twice the amount of meat required to feed your family. She used the example of pot roast. If there is a bone, use it to prepare soup another day along with leftover vegetables and a bit of the gravy.

Take a portion of the leftover pot roast the following day and ground it to make stuffed green peppers or stuffed eggplant. There should be enough to make a beef noodle casserole as well.

Don’t neglect to save the vegetables, sauce, and rice from meals. These ingredients may be used in omelets, salads, soups, and baked dishes. Be creative.

Great advice from the creative Fannie Farmer on developing great cooking habits!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.