• In the Fanny Farmer Cookbook (see Techniques) you will find an exhaustive list of things you should have in your pantry.

In her section called “Staples”  pay attention to her explanations of the following:

  • Baking Soda
  • Baking Powder
  • Butter
  • Chocolate
  • Cream

Pay special attention to:

  • Oils –I urge you to look at this site which provides the “smoke point” of various oils.  When cooking oil in a pan starts to smoke it is chemically breaking down and often giving off a rancid smell.  That smell will be transferred to anything cooking in the pan.  For this reason, one must choose oils carefully.  I do not suggest using olive oil for braising or frying meat, save it for salads.  
According to Lidia Bastianich, a wonderful cook , we in the States tend to brown and fry at extremely high temperatures. Her message is wise… turn it down and use the proper oil.

Training your Palate Buy small quantities of differnt oils, especially olive oils which differ greatly in frutiness.  Try sesame oil and see what it adds to a salad.  Taste some chili oil next time you go to a Chinese restaurant.  Try infusing your own olive oil by allowing a herb like tarragon to marinate in it for a few days.  Don’t be afraid to experiment. .

  • Sugars   I suggest doing a taste test of  brown sugar and white/refined sugar.  For example, if you use sugar in your cereal, try substituting brown for white and seeing what happens in your mouth.  Do you like the taste?  If so why?  If not, why not?  This is Training your Palate.
  • Thickening Agents  Fanny has some helpful information where you will discover you have options when it comes to baking a pie, making gravy etc. (food that requires thickening).
  • Vinegar   Vinegar is one of those misunderstood and often maligned ingredients.  In Fannie’s day, Balsamic vinegar wasn’t around much in America.  Unfortunately, from my point of view,  it is too much around today because many cooks think that all Balsamic is created the same.  Good Balsamic vinegar is very expensive and should be used sparingly.  It is magnificent when it is fine, and cloying when it is cheap

I suggest you get to know vinegar as something that can lift a meal from ho hum to wow — and I don’t mean a salad.

A Great Recipie Using Vinegar

016 (3) This is a photo of a brilliant recipe from a great old cookbook “The New York Times Cookbook” published in 1975.  The recipe by Times food critic Craig Clairborne and master chef Pierre Franey is for Sauted veal chops with vinegar glaze.  It is an extremely simple,  yet elegant recipe that translates well for cooking things like  bone in porkchops or porterhouse steaks or thick loin lamb chops
4 loin veal chops about 1/2 pound each
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter
4 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar*
1/2 cup fresh or canned chicken broth.
  • * These chefs knew that Balsamic vinegar might be too syrupy.
Sprinkle the chops on both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet.  When it starts to foam and add the chops. Brown on Both sides, turning once. They should cook about 5 minutes to a side.  Add the garlic, bay leaves and thyme and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour the vinegar around the chops and turn the heat to high. Add the broth, cover closely and cook for about 20 minutes
015  019021
These are shoulder chops.  I did not half the ingredients for two chops and they were DELICIOUS!


Fannies next section is “Herbs, Spices and Seasonings”
I suggest reading the introduction to this section because it is as accurate today as it was when the old lady or one of her accomplices penned it.
Herbs are plucked fresh from the garden.  I find Fanny’s  illustrations very charming and  helpful when you need to tell the difference between dill and a weed.  She focuses on the basic herbs, many of which can be found in produce sections.
These are usually dried AND they are more intense in flavor that their fresh coiunterparts….. less is more.
Most cooks accumulate a collection of dried spices and herbs over a period of time, usually as a result of reading a recipe.  My advice is to buy them in the smallest quantity possible.
Ingredients like Horesradich, Worcesterhire Sauce, Tabasco, Soy Sauce, etc. store well in the refrigerator.
I would avoid such things as bottled lemon or lime juice as these rarely taste as good as the real things.