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OP: Mary Frances Cook Book

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by Jane Eayre Fryer
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One of the most loved cookbooks for children, this entrancing book is as much a marvelous story as it is a manual of culinary instruction. Subtitled Adventures Among the Kitchen People, it embeds its recipes in a charming narrative through which we see the kitchen tools and implements come to life and guide Mary Frances in making the dishes that her mother has set down for her in a notebook. 

The characters are Mary Frances herself, her parents, her stern Aunt Maria, various friends, and an array of companions such as Big Iron Pot, Sauce Pan (also known as “Saucy”), Mr. Toaster, and Aunty Rolling Pin. Using her simple recipes and aided by her Kitchen Friends, she produces breakfast for her father, entertains some friends with baked apples and custard, makes an omelet for a passing tramp, and poaches up some eggs for a sick neighbor.

The book, the first of a series (others on sewing, gardening, and so forth) written by Jane Eayre Fryer (1876–c. 1924) is intended to teach basic domestic skills to young girls. However the didactic elements are disguised beautifully in an amusing story, profusely illustrated throughout with the personable characters who are part of Mary Frances’ life.

The volume is very nicely designed, handsomely printed in two colors. Bound in blue cloth with a pictorial title label on the front, it displays bookmaking that is a pleasure to browse again and again. Although the book has been reprinted in later years, most of the surviving original copies have been loved half to death—scribbled in, torn, often broken at the spine. Indeed, our copy, believed to be a 1912 first edition, was falling apart, so we had it rebacked, preserving the original front and rear boards but replacing the endpapers. The interior is, quite fortunately, clean and unmarked.

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