A few months back my son, Chef Brian, told me about a great show that he found on Netflix called Fannie’s Last Supper. The show was made by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, and is all about recreating a Victorian dinner party that was found in the pages of the famous 1892 cook book written by Fanny Farmer who, back in the day, was the head of the Boston Cooking School.
Aside from telling Fannie’s inspiring story, the show tells how a 12 course Victorian dinner was re-created in the 21st century, which ended up being a great deal more challenging than anyone expected.
One example from the show is that of making Victorian jellies, a common and much-loved dessert item of the period. To make these jellies, they couldn’t just go to the supermarket and buy some packets of gelatin… oh no! They had to do historical research to discover how they were made in the 1890’s, and when they discovered the process, they had to find a place that would sell them calves’ hooves, for that is how they did things back then.
Another challenge they had was learning to cook on a wood-fired cast iron cook stove from the period, which was a rather arduous task. Yet once they got the hang of it, they, all professional chefs, declared that an old cast iron stove can do things that a modern stove can’t…
In all, it took the team from America’s Test Kitchen 18 months to get everything worked out and to actually put on the dinner.
If you like cooking, or if you’re a bit of a foodie… or if you are into history, then you must watch Fannie’s Last Supper. Oh yes, and if you aren’t any of these things, if you just want to watch something different, you’ll enjoy it as well.
After I watched the program (I’ve now seen it 5 times!) Chef Brian came up with an idea, and I’ll tell you about that next week.