Florence P. Hanford, 99, of Glen Mills, Philadelphia's - and possibly the country's - first television cook, died Tuesday at Rose Tree Place, an assisted-living residence in Media.
For 20 years, Mrs. Hanford prepared entire meals on her half-hour weekly program,
. The show aired live in the afternoon on Channel 3 from 1949 to 1965 and then for four years on Channel 6.
Mrs. Hanford completed two rehearsals to check the timing and appearance of recipes prepared on an electric range; the Philadelphia Electric Co. sponsored the broadcast.
Though she never burned anything, she once tried to bake a cake in a turned-off oven. An assistant was dispatched to fetch the rehearsal cake.
Such missteps endeared her to viewers. "If you were unrolling a nice mold and had a little trouble, people loved it because they had that problem at home," she told a reporter in 2002.
Homemakers often wrote for recipes, especially during the Christmas season, when she received up to 15,000 requests a week for cookie recipes.
Sometimes viewers submitted recipes later used on the show. Mrs. Hanford's own favorites were desserts. When she raved about a chocolate cake at a local restaurant, her husband bought the recipe from the chef, said her niece, Joan Hedgcock.
Mrs. Hanford introduced local cooks to then-exotic ingredients such as bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage, artichokes, avocados, teriyaki and risotto.
She published books of television recipes in 1964 and 1969. Years after she was off the air she was still sending fans copies, and food editors were still printing recipes for her popular freezable cookies and classic pound cake.
Mrs. Hanford grew up in Bristol. Her father was a salesman and her mother a homemaker who "wasn't a real good cook," she said in 2002. She studied home economics at Temple University and earned a bachelor's degree in education in June 1931. That month she married Harry B. Hanford.
She was a substitute teacher and taught cooking to nursing students at Temple before becoming supervisor of home economics for Peco. In 1947 she won an audition to give cooking demonstrations on a company-sponsored program called
, which evolved into
That year she and her husband built a farmhouse in Glen Mills. Their knotty-pine kitchen had cupboards designed to hold dishes upright for easy access. The couple raised race horses on eight acres and always had cats and dogs. Their racing colors were black and white for their favorite dalmatians.
After retiring from television, Mrs. Hanford was a food consultant, tended a large vegetable garden, swam in her pool, produced prize-winning needlepoint, played the organ, and volunteered at the New Bolton Center, the equine branch of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine.
After her husband died in 1978, she continued to run the farm until 10 years ago, and lived independently until a year and a half ago. She exercised daily, was always impeccably groomed, and enjoyed cake on her birthday two weeks ago, Hedgcock said.
Mrs. Hanford is survived by her niece.
A graveside service will begin at noon today at Willistown Friends Cemetery, 7069 Goshen Rd., Newtown Square, Pa. 19073.
Memorial donations may be made to the Willistown Friends Meeting at that address.