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Why You Should Listen to Fannie Farmer and Learn How to Be a Domestic Scientist

An Iconic book in the world of food and homemaking is The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer (later, often titled The Fannie Farmer Cookbook). Originally published in 1896 with only 3,000 First Editions printed, this book quickly became the best-selling cookbook of its era. It is still in print today. And for good reason.

Fannie Farmer was a visionary who was ahead of her time. She sought to transform ‘cookery’ from something associated with “servants” to “domestic science” and the art of homemaking, a gift that women could give to others in the world. Fannie suffered a stroke at age 16 that resulted in her dropping out of high school. She quickly took to cooking as her mother’s assistant and her home, which had become a boarding house, was renowned for her food and the quality of her meals.

Her love of cooking grew and blossomed into a career in, what was then coined “domestic science.” Fannie attended a cooking school and graduated as a star pupil, later becoming the principal of the school and writing The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook.

Her cookbook was revolutionary in that it required precise measurements of its ingredients, something we take for granted today since that is all we have ever known. But imagine trying to follow a recipe that is a list of ingredients, a general recommendation of what to do with them, and a quote that says, “Your results will vary.” My goodness! I can imagine the mishaps (think I Love Lucy and the Pioneer episode where she tries to make bread) and the disappointed husbands who had to choke down salty biscuits (because he better not say anything bad).

Fannie took something that was once seen as ‘low class’ and legitimized it, transforming cooking and creating/following recipes into an art form and a science. She made it accessible to women and saw it as an area where women could demonstrate strength and skill. Fannie also empowered women by personally teaching them what she knew and opening her own school with the idea that cooking should be accessible to all women, not just professional chefs.

To me, there is something beautiful about the desire to share what you know. Instead of claiming righteous ownership and taking valuable information and knowledge to the grave (I picture Gollum and the sacred ring, except it’s a wild-eyes woman clutching her family’s recipes), shouldn’t we be sharing with one another? Shouldn’t we be collectively bettering one another? And, I propose, that we are losing our ability and desire to feed others (figuratively and literally) and master the often-overcomplicated art of cooking.

In November, I met a girl named Chelsey who was working at Lululemon (yes, I was overpaying for yoga pants, if you must know). As is often said of me, I have never known a stranger, and we started discussing Thanksgiving plans. As soon as she told me that she was making Julia Child’s ‘Beef Bourguignon,’ I knew that she had to enjoy cooking because no one would put themselves through that recipe if they did not. It could ruin you forever and be the last thing you ever cooked (cue horror music).

Chelsey and I stayed in touch and have decided that instead of a Book Club (from my experience, a place to drink wine and gossip, having bought the book but never opening it), we are going to get a group of women together and cook, sharing recipes and ideas, failures and successes. We all have different skill levels and dietary requirements, just like the people for whom we so often cook (whether we cook well or poorly). I suggest that we are simply returning to a well-established female custom where we will nurture one another for our own benefit, to the benefit of those around us, and to the greater good of women (cheesy, I know, but I stand by it).

As quoted in The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook’s First Edition (and later editions) by John Ruskin, a social thinker and philanthropist, 1819-1900):

Cookery means the knowledge of Medea and of Circe and of Helen and of the Queen of Sheba. It means the knowledge of all herbs and fruits and balms and spices, and all that is healing and sweet in the fields and groves and savory in meats. It means carefulness and inventiveness and willingness and readiness of appliances. It means the economy of your grandmothers and the science of a modern chemist; it means much testing and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art and Arabian hospitality; and, in fine, it means that you are to be perfectly and always, ladies – loaf givers.

It’s time we view food and cooking with the respect it so deserves. It is a skill that we can attain (yes, you can). It is a gift that we can give to others. And there are resources to help us study, learn, and grow. Pick up The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, steeped in a rich history from the mind of a woman who wanted to invest in you. Or pick up any cookbook. Talk to a senior in the family who can teach you her “tried and true” methods. Make really great biscuits.

Cooking does not have to be complex and intimidating. You are capable of mastering ‘domestic science.’ And let’s do it collectively. I encourage you to get a group of women together and try out a recipe; laugh, drink wine (if you must, and you probably must), and stumble through it. And if your husband asks, you can always tell him you were at Book Club.

 

 

Sources: Fannie Merritt Farmer courtesy of http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1764

Fannie Farmer (left) with Martha Hayes Ludden, one of her students at the Boston Cooking School, courtesy of http://www.britannica.com/biography/Fannie-Merritt-Farmer.

Cooking School, Sophia Loren Cooking, and Four Housewives  courtesy of Pinterest.

  • Teri - As a busy mother with small children many years ago, I often opted for store bought foods like pasta and biscuits. At this point in my life I plan on learning how to perfect a great home cooked biscuit and have the time to do so. Thanks for the inspiration!
    P.S. Nice cookbook.ReplyCancel

  • Cheri glankler - Love this article! Cooking is a favorite pastime of mine!ReplyCancel

 

How the Right Marriage is Empowering

I feel compelled to write about Nancy Reagan to honor her in death. As I consider women who have influenced my life, besides my Mom (of course), Nancy is high on my list. Perhaps it was that I was born in the Reagan era and observed Nancy during my developmental years. It could have been that I wore a ‘Just Say No’ button as a kid, happily supporting her most famous campaign as First Lady. But I think it was just admiring a woman who was genuine, classy, funny, and looked at her husband with eyes that expressed admiration, adoration, and the truest kind of love. Reagan Love.

I was always blessed (and am blessed) to have parents that adore one another. They were high school sweethearts and fell in love, marrying young and staying strongly connected over the years. I have found them dancing in the kitchen, lovingly teasing one another, and laughing uncontrollably over some inside joke they shared. They still look at one another the way Nancy and “Ronnie” (as she called him) looked at one another in photos documenting their life together. They have Reagan Love.

Nancy had a fascinating life before she met Ronald Reagan and I could fill a year’s worth of articles writing about her childhood and history, but I’ll honor her in the way I think she would appreciate most: as Mrs. Ronald Reagan and how the couple had a love that we all should seek in our own lives.

Nowhere is this love more evident than in the letters that Ronnie wrote to Nancy over the years (he shared my love for handwritten letters…could he be any cooler?). She saved everything from him, including these letters, and later turned them in to a book titled, I Love You, Ronnie. Although the book itself is not vintage, the content is and so I think it fits here perfectly.

On July 13, 1954, Ronnie wrote to Nancy:

…I just see you in all the beauty there is because in you I’ve found all the beauty in my life.

Please be careful and don’t get too good at covering your own shoulders at night- I’d miss doing it. Be careful in every other way too- nothing would have meaning without you…

I love you,

Ronnie

Nancy said that she drove people crazy with everything that she saved from Ronnie but that those same people would praise her years later when she had ample items to donate to the Ronald Reagan Library. They also became important after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease and, as his memory faded, she was able to relive moments of their life together by re-reading his letters to her. I hope he knows what a gift that was to her, especially in those lonely years she faced as he was slipping away.

On March 20, 1955, Ronnie wrote to Nancy:

With all the “missing you” there is still such a wonderful warmth in the lonliness [sic] like looking forward to a bright warm room. No matter how dark & cold it is at the moment- you know the room is there and waiting.

I love you so very much I don’t even mind that life made me wait so long to find you. The waiting only made the finding sweeter.

Nancy faced criticism when she said things like, “My life really began when I met Ronald Reagan.” Or, “I can’t imagine life without Ronnie.” This is strange to me. Why would we criticize a woman’s love for her husband? Why would this ever be something negative?

We should all be so lucky to find this kind of love and for it to so strongly enhance who we are as women. I find that my marriage and my husband are empowering. I think Nancy felt that too; that she was the best version of herself as the Mrs. to her loving husband. She was more complete, happier, and more content to enjoy life’s moments (big and small).

One of my most favorite quotes from Nancy is when she said the following:

If either of us ever left the room, we both felt lonely. People don’t always believe this but it’s true. Filling the loneliness, completing each other- that’s what it still meant to us to be husband and wife.

The sweetness that they felt for one another is compelling. I remember one weekend when Ross and I were working on our individual projects in the house, he came into the room that I was in and kissed me. He said that he missed me and wanted to say hi. I felt the same way and was so grateful to have the kind of love that I so admired throughout my life. Reagan Love.

On Christmas in 1971, he wrote:

Your gift to me is uninsurable. No appraiser can put a value on it. How would he figure the market value of feeling a tingle of excitement of anticipation every time I start for home? Or the way I can’t help but walk fast when I get there, hurrying for the first sight of you.

On this day, I can’t help but imagine Nancy in Ronnie’s arms again; that there was a beautiful reunion where he stood trying to patiently wait but then blissfully sprinted to her, as he greeted her in their heavenly home. Reagan Love.

Marriage need not be the sacrifice of one’s self, but the foundation of a more fulfilled woman. This is not to say that marriage is a requirement to be fulfilled or that all marriage can even have this effect (I’m sure we can all agree that there are a lot of less-than-desirable marriages). I simply agree with Nancy that when you marry the right man, a new life begins. And that new life is where you are your happiest, best, and most content self.

For me, my marriage is empowering and fulfilling. It is that new life. And the title of ‘Mrs. Ross Pittman’ is how I am most happily defined. So criticize my marriage, the way I miss my husband when he is in another room, and how I look at him. I’m in the good company of my parents, Ross’ parents, and the Reagans. And, in the words of Ronnie (in 2002, speaking about being happily married for fifty years)…

Let’s carry on.

Thank you, Nancy, for demonstrating how a woman can be strengthened in marriage and take pride in receiving a great man’s last name. Thank you for feeling unapologetically content and delighted as Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Thank you for allowing us to witness an extraordinary kind of love. The sweetest love. Thank you for Reagan Love.

 

Sources: All Photos courtesy of Pinterest.

  • Brooke Thayer - Very well written. Thank you. I long to find Reagan Love and this article gives me hope that I can. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Stacy Pittman - Thank you! I have no doubt that Reagan Love is attainable and that you should settle for nothing less because you deserve it!ReplyCancel

  • Shawna - Brings a tear to my eye. Thanks for sharing this!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Bremer Dulgarian - This is made me smile and cry! What a great reminder and example on how to love. My parents just divorced last year after being together for 40 years! (Life has been hard!) I think it takes two selfless people to make a marriage work, and in a world so full of instant gratification and selfishness, pure love can be hard to find and keep!!ReplyCancel

    • Stacy Pittman - Thinking about you, Stephanie. I’m so sorry to hear about your parents. You’re right on with your thoughts on true love.ReplyCancel

The Art of a Handwritten Letter

I enjoy a good text or a kind Facebook message. I love when I tweet a celebrity and they respond (thank you Karen from Top Chef). I’m grateful for the ability to communicate quickly and easily. But let’s be honest… is there anything better than a handwritten letter? Do some of you even know what that is?

My husband and I have a deal. For important occasions, he has to get me a card. I love cards. I always have. My whole family (yes, everyone on both sides) grew up sending greeting cards for special events and holidays. It was a way that we showed each other love and it made birthdays and holidays more exciting, knowing that you were going to receive something in the mail. And oh, the feeling you’d get when money would fall out of it! Especially the ‘folding kind,’ as my sister would refer to it.

Lucky for me, my parents still send cards (and the occasional $20 bill for no reason in particular; “mad money” as my grandma used to call it). So, when I married a man from a non-card family (gasp!), I had to make sure he knew that it was important to me. Maybe cards are my love language. Or my spirit animal. I haven’t decided which.

Though I love a good card (in general), with my husband, I love what he writes in cards. He’s the strong and silent type; an introvert with a witty sense of humor and a love for baseball and good food (a way his family shows love, I have learned). He’s sweet and thoughtful but never more so than with the genuine words he pens in a card. And our ever-changing nicknames (often meant to annoy his sister) are suspended in time.

These cards have become a road map of our life and relationship: a card when we got married, another when we found out we were pregnant, and another when we had a miscarriage. Handwritten cards and letters have recorded our thoughts, feelings, and love over the course of our marriage. To me, that’s incredibly powerful and I’m grateful to document life in this way. To me, it’s always more than “just a card.”

I know many people don’t even get greeting cards for one another. As one friend put it, she hates them. She says that she would be mad if her husband spent $4.oo on a card; she’d rather have the money. She says there is no sentiment since all her husband does is sign his name. There’s also a Jim Gaffigan stand-up routine about greeting cards where he says signing a card is like saying, “Do you like what that other guy wrote?” There is no creativity or thought behind it.

Another girlfriend agonizes over buying cards but for a very different reason. She spends hours in Hallmark, painstakingly reading each card until she finds the right one. I think she would beg to differ with Mr. Gaffigan. She finds, what she views as, the perfect card that fits the recipient. She then writes a sweet paragraph and signs her name. To her, it’s like a game of ‘Memory,’ matching the card to her friend. Even if some other guy wrote it.

A solution to everyone’s anxiety over finding the perfect card and/or saving the $4.00 is to simply write your own.

The great Emily Post, another one of my heroes, says this in her 1945 staple, Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage:

The letter we all love to receive is one that carries so much of the writer’s personality that she seems to be sitting beside us, looking at us directly and talking just as she really would, could she have come on a magic carpet, instead of sending her proxy in ink-made characters on mere paper…

And we finish the letter with a very vivid remembrance of [the writer’s] sympathy, a sense of loss in her absence, and a longing for a time when [the writer] herself may again be sitting on the sofa beside us and telling us all the details her letter can but leave out…

Do you ever see a man look through a stack of mail and notice that suddenly his face lights up as he seizes a letter “from home”? He tears it open eagerly, his mouth up-curving at the corners, as he lingers over every word. You know, without being told, that the wife he had to leave behind puts all the best she can devise and save for him into his life as well as on paper!

What excuse do we have not to write a letter? We write emails and we message on Facebook and Snapchat (which I am still struggling to figure out). It’s easier to publicly communicate with the world than with one other human being. And we have ample platforms to do so. What is it about interpersonal communication that is so difficult?

I propose that we are losing our ability to communicate with one another. And it is personal. Isn’t it easier to write a general Facebook post to no one in particular rather than sitting down and focusing for twenty minutes to write a kind and thoughtful handwritten letter? Again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a Facebook post- as technology evolves, so should we. And at times, it can be quicker and more efficient. However, I don’t think that evolving should be at the expense of a loss of formality, intimacy, and respect for one another.

I’ve always been someone who has to write. If I’m sad, I write. Stressed? Write. Happy? Write (usually with lots of exclamation points and poorly-drawn hearts). I’m an obsessive list-maker and I love having a paper calendar to write down important dates and appointments. So for me, I enjoy writing and it is how I express myself.

I get that, for others, it’s the opposite. There’s anxiety and dread over finding the perfect words. But I submit that those feelings make it all the more special to the letter or card recipient. If someone knows that you don’t enjoy writing and they are surprised with a handwritten letter in the mail, they may appreciate it more, recognizing the time, effort, and (likely) nervous breakdown you experienced in its preparation.

In a world where mail consists of bills, advertisements, 20% off coupons to Bed, Bath, & Beyond never addressed to yourself but to the person who lived in the house before you (right?), and magazines you never read, make someone’s day; send a handwritten letter out of nowhere. There are 10,080 minutes in a week. Take twenty minutes (.2% of your week) and write to someone that you’re thinking about. Put all your best into it and make it personal, as Emily Post would suggest. It’s a small gesture that can make a huge impact.

This year, I’ve resolved to write one handwritten letter a month (at a minimum). Would you be willing to do the same? Channel your own Emily Post. And get your elbows off of the table. Now, with the greatest acknowledgment of irony, I’m going to post this article on Facebook and Twitter. But then… I have letters to write.

 

Sources:Housewife Letter courtesy of forties-fifties-sixties-love.tumblr.com via Pinterest

Passing Notes courtesy of Pinterest
Women at a love letter competition courtesy of Getty Images (U.S) – 1933 – Vintage property of ullstein bild
January 01, 1933| Credit: ullstein bild

  • Garrity - We have always shared this passion! I’m sure I have some Hallmark cards in a random box somewhere from you! I’m still just as obsessed, and can’t bear to throw any cards/letters out! (Good thing I have an attic…and a basement!) I was just writing some thank you notes yesterday, thinking it was a dying tradition. Good to see we’re still keeping it alive! P.S. What’s your address? 🙂 Fond Regards, GarrityReplyCancel

    • Stacy Pittman - YES! That’s for sure. I still have some of your cards, although my favorite is the Yearbook novel complete with photos of us throughout the years. That was good stuff! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Teri - I do like to send and receive cards. The question is, how long do you keep said cards?ReplyCancel

    • Stacy Pittman - Great question! I go back and forth. I get the idea of purging to keep possessions to a minimum but I must admit that I keep family and close friends’ cards indefinitely. I have many boxes of them. I’ve found that it’s fun to get them out periodically and reminisce. How long do you keep cards?ReplyCancel

  • Teri - I have many boxes of them also. It gives me some comfort to see the signature of my mother who passed away years ago and a sweet sentiment she added into a card.ReplyCancel

Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful. – Sophia Loren

Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. These women have been called statuesque, ideal, and bombshells. Although imperfect (by modern standards), they ooze confidence, charisma, and magnetism. I encourage you to embrace yourself just as you are today, flaws and all. Remember that you get to wear your own skin today- that you are the outfit God decided looked best on you. Accessorize with a genuine smile and whatever makes you feel like a bombshell (for me, it’s a happy marriage, blush, and pink lipstick). And remember, you’re not the only one who has ever sucked it all in for photos. Have an amazing weekend, Gorgeous!

 

Source: All photos of Marilyn and Jayne via Pinterest

 

Why You Shouldn’t Contact Your Girlfriend’s Husband

By now, you might know that I love all things Betty Crocker. She is an iconic symbol of the perfect cook and homemaker. And she’s a fake. She was created by Marjorie Husted, a home economist and businesswoman in the 1920’s. The name “Betty” was chosen for its all-American sound and “Crocker” was the last name of a director within the parent company. Betty Crocker was meant to be a figure head for giving consumers advice on various home-related topics.

The idea of Betty Crocker is quite brilliant, in my opinion. She is domestic and runs a tidy household, taking pride in cooking and entertaining her guests. She is bright and kind; Wise and generous. She is also a smart businesswoman who has elevated her status from ‘simple’ homemaker to international icon. She has embraced her power as a woman and makes no excuses.

In Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Entertaining (1959), the issue of party invitations is discussed. Here is the rule: “Except when a bachelor is the host, invitations are always given by the hostess, or in her name, and are addressed to the other women involved, even if they have not met.” There is an example given when, “One of my business associates, a man, asked if I were free to have dinner at his home during the week end. I said I would be delighted. He answered, “Fine. What’s a good time for Marjorie [the wife] to call you?”

I realize that part of the reason women probably reached out to other women, instead of husbands, is because they (husbands) generally have no idea what their social calendar looks like and/or they would have to check with their wife anyways in order to accept/decline. If it were up to them, they’d accept, then forget and tell the wife about it five minutes before needing to leave to attend the party. Alternatively, when the doorbell rang, they would inform their wife that guests were coming over for dinner (cue the glare at him via a naked face and greasy hair).

That thought aside, this rule applies to us modern gals as well. Betty’s advice goes much deeper than simply making a rule about to whom we should address an invitation (or evite). This raises questions about contacting the husbands of other women. Let’s say everyone is friendly, both husbands and wives, as is common in my experience. Is it okay to contact your girlfriend’s husband?

The lawyer in me wants to answer every question the same, and if you’ve ever talked to a lawyer (sorry about your luck), the answer is almost always, “It depends.” I’m not saying this is a hard and fast rule (since there are always lots of circumstances which could cause a deviation in the norm) but I believe that, generally, we should not directly contact our girlfriend’s husbands.

It is not, by definition, disrespectful to contact a husband directly; however, I think that it does, by definition, demonstrate respect for your girlfriend and for her marriage to contact her (at least) first. Think about it. It would be strange for you to run into a girlfriend out to lunch or dinner with your husband without you knowing anything about it. It wouldn’t sit well in your gut. Just thinking about it makes me uncomfortable (like those statistics of how many spiders you swallow in your sleep or thinking about what’s in a hot dog… kill me now). It just seems wrong. It feels disrespectful.

I never thought much about this rule until it happened to me, in the best way possible. A good friend, Jeanne (who was also a co-worker of mine) had a work-related question for my husband. She had his direct number and could have easily contacted him. However, she called me first.

She explained the situation and stated that she just wanted to let me know that she had a question for him and that I could either ask him for her or, if it was okay, she could contact him directly. I was happy to give my blessing for her to call him but I can’t tell you how much I appreciated being asked. It seemed proper, kind, and respectful.

And I’ve noticed this about Jeanne, in general. She is a single girl and is very respectful about the relationships of her girlfriends, so much so that her reputation is positively affected. She is known as honest, loyal, and courteous. I trust her wholeheartedly and I know that she always has my best interest at heart. She has a sense of duty about what is appropriate and I think we could all learn a thing or two from her, as women and as friends to one another.

In today’s world, we have caller ID and documented text exchanges. It could be awkward to see your husband’s call log with a call from one of your girlfriends and not know why. A misinterpreted text message could cause major problems between you and your girlfriend or you and your husband. It could raise uncomfortable questions, cause unnecessary tension, or spiral into a black hole of jealousy and suspicion.

I know that every relationship is different and that every person is different. However, I think this is a solid, applicable rule to our lives. Generally, the wives are closer friends and the husbands are closer friends. Right? Have you ever experienced the highs and lows or trying to find a couple where the guys get along and the girls are a good fit as well? It can be as difficult as finding the perfect pair of jeans or as soul crushing as needing to fit into a swimsuit in winter (all pale and soft… I shudder to think about it).

As women, we should respect one another. And with married women, we should respect one anothers’ marriage (or relationship). After all, isn’t that a problem we see in society today? I suggest that we return to this idea of addressing each other and fostering good communication amongst ourselves out of respect and loyalty. And we’ll hopefully avoid our husbands being in charge of telling us about surprise house guests. For now, I have to run. The doorbell just rang and I’m supposed to host a dinner party in three minutes…

 

 

Sources: Party Time Photo by salvagedgrace.com via Pinterest

Marilyn on the Phone courtesy of thisismarilyn.com via Pinterest

Wedding Help courtesy of storiesofchelsea.org via Pinterest

Girls courtesy of imgur.com via Pinterest

Tray Photo courtesy of www.abc.net.au

  • Jennifer - This is an amazing blog post, Stacy! And I agree 110% about not contacting your girlfriend’s husbands. I can’t wait to read more of your posts!ReplyCancel

  • Teri - How funny is the “Girls” picture…prom dresses and cigarettes!ReplyCancel