Marcia was trying to help her mama. So maybe balancing on top of a tower of chairs to dip candles wasn't such a good idea. And perhaps her biscuits worked better as doorstops than dessert. Still, does her mama really need to hire a mother's helper?
Then Fannie Farmer steps into their kitchen, and all of a sudden the biscuits are dainty and the griddle cakes aren't quite so...al dente. As Fannie teaches Marcia all about cooking, from how to flip a griddle cake at precisely the right moment to how to determine the freshness of eggs, Marcia makes a wonderful new friend.
Here's the story "from soup to nuts" -- delightfully embellished by Deborah Hopkinson -- of how Fannie Farmer invented the modern recipe and created one of the first and best-loved American cookbooks. Nancy Carpenter seamlessly incorporates vintage engravings into her pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations, deliciously evoking the feeling of a time gone by.
Prepared to perfection and served up with style, this historical nugget imagines an interlude in the life of cookbook pioneer Fannie Farmer, who, prior to her stint at the Boston Cooking School, worked as a mother's helper. As Hopkinson envisions it, the daughter of the house who has a touch of the Eloise gene is not at all pleased with Fannie's arrival. "I'm your helper," the spunky Marcia protests to her mother, but she soon becomes an acolyte: "Fannie seemed like a magician who could make mashed potatoes fluffier than clouds and blueberry pies sweeter than a summer sky." Marcia's many culinary flops, on the other hand, from discovering that she has cracked a rotten egg into her batter to flipping a griddle cake onto the cat, ultimately inspire the unflappable Fannie to write down precise instructions in a precursor to her immortal cookbook. Cleverly served up in seven brief "courses," the proceedings are garnished with Carpenter's irreverent illustrations, which seamlessly incorporate period engravings within pen-and-wash drawings. Her scenes wittily spoof Victorian decorum, whether showing the perfectly coiffed and coutured lady of the house greedily licking her plate or the initially sullen Marcia, slumped in a chair with her back to the reader, her scowl reflected in a pair of water glasses, a gravy boat and a decanter. The biographical afterword and an appended pancake recipe are simply icing on the (griddle) cake. Ages 4-9.