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LINES WRITTEN IN THE FANNIE FARMER COOKBOOK, by         Recitation     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

“Lines Written in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook” is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop that takes a humorous look at the various recipes and instructions found in a cookbook. The poem begins with the speaker noting the many “plausible-sounding” recipes found in the book, from savory dishes to desserts. However, as the speaker continues to read through the cookbook, she becomes increasingly amused by the odd instructions and unexpected combinations of ingredients. For example, she notes the instructions to remove the eyes from a fish before cooking it, and the suggestion to add prunes to a hamburger mix.

As the poem continues, the speaker becomes more and more skeptical of the recipes, questioning whether anyone would actually follow them. She notes that the cookbook seems to be aimed at “a race of giants,” with recipes that call for enormous quantities of ingredients and serving sizes. The poem ends with the speaker acknowledging that, despite its quirks, the cookbook still has some useful tips, but ultimately it is the humor and absurdity of the recipes that stay with her.

Through its use of humor and satire, “Lines Written in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook” pokes fun at the often-unrealistic expectations placed on home cooks and the sometimes-absurd nature of cookbook instructions. The poem was first published in 1976 in The New Yorker.

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