Treasures and Kindred Spirits.

So, I was all set to tell you about the absolutely wonderful baking class I assisted with at the cooking school this weekend, but on my way home this morning, I stumbled upon the most fantastic estate sale I’ve been to in a long time.  So, the baking class recap will just have to wait until tomorrow.

We had borrowed some tables and chairs from the Parks & Rec department for bingo night at school last Friday that needed to be returned this morning, to their storage shed over by CHS.  Along the way, I saw a sign for an estate sale.  On my way home from dropping them off, I popped in, just to see what I could find.  I noticed as I walked in, this was the last day, so everything was half off.


As I walked into the garage, I couldn’t help but notice all sorts of good kitchen gadgets.  Although picked over, I could tell, there was a cook that lived here.  I hoped that not everything was picked over, that I could find a few useful things for myself.

And then I walked into the kitchen.  I saw a shelf of cookbooks that looked seemingly untouched.  I started rifling through them, then, suddenly became aware that there were at least 4 other bookshelves next to me, all FULL of cookbooks.  I stepped back and realized the breakfast nook off the kitchen had even more.  There were cookbooks EVERYWHERE.  There were complete sets of cookbooks – Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Time Life, Betty Crocker, McCalls, Southern Living, I could go on and on.  There were vintage cookbooks, there were new cookbooks, there were shelves upon shelves of what I call those church cookbooks – you know the ones that churches and ladies groups put together and sell as a fundraiser?  She had a whole collection of them.  I noticed many of her cookbooks were noted as to who had given them to her and when.  She had handwritten notes in them, she had recipes she’s written down, shoved in them, she had cards taped to the inside covers.  I realized I was standing in the kitchen of a woman who’s cookbook ownership style was very similar to my own.  Not only that, I realized that she had some of the same cooking interests and cookbook collecting habits as myself – with a heavy emphasis on southern style cooking as well as those church collections.
The first cookbook I grabbed was a rather beaten up one.

That I realized was an old, beloved copy of The Joy of Cooking.

A 1943 edition as a matter of fact.

Shoved full of recipes and notes and stains.

This newspaper clipping was in the front of the book.
  I like to imagine she cut it out because of the picture it painted.
Isn’t it lovely?

This was glued to the inside front cover. I think she covered the book in a wallpaper scrap and that appears to be a label from a product she wanted to remember.  This is something I do – shove labels I want to remember into cookbooks.  Hers was glued in, on top of the book cover edges.
The inside covers and all blank pages on the inside of her Joy of Cooking were filled with handwritten recipes.  Some are water damaged, but they are a treasure.
I realized as I looked that she had multiple copies of cookbooks – I found two Joy of Cookings, but went with the beat-up copy.  I have a newer version myself and what I really wanted were her notes.
So now I have two Joy of Cookings myself.  Which will fit in splendidly with all my Betty Crockers cookbooks.  (I have two an early 1950’s and a late 1980’s, plus the Cooky cookbook from the mid-sixties).

Amazingly, I held myself to two of the church collection cookbooks.  The one on the right is from First Presbyterian Church, here in Charlottesville, circa 1966.  The other is from a group called the Proud Land Rose Society and it’s the “Bicentennial Issue”, 1976. 
She had shelves upon shelves of these.  She had multiple copies of some of them.  I couldn’t help but notice, we had some of the same, from different areas of the state.  She had them from up and down the east coast.  I collect these as well, but I narrowed it down to these two, because one was from Charlottesville and the other one fascinated me. 
It had pages I had never seen before in these books. Serious menu planning.

Baking hints and food measures.
Gardening charts!

And then I found this.  Good Housekeeping, 1949.  Also full of bookmarks and notes. 

This one being my favorite.  An old Sweet & Low packet to mark the Indian Shrimp Curry recipe, with notes.  Yes, I will be making this and soon.
A canning cookbook.  Always good to have more of those, especially ones with pickles, jams & jelly recipes.

This is a classic.  I first learned about Edna Lewis from my dear friend Leni.  I’m not sure the previous owner used this, as it’s in mint condition, but I’m tickled to now have a copy in my collection. Edna Lewis was the granddaughter of a slave, and this cookbook is considered a classic in Southern Cooking.  Edna Lewis was sometimes referred to as the Julia Child of southern cooking. 

For years, I have collected piecemeal, books from a collection put out in the mid-1980’s from Southern Living, called the “Southern Heritage Collection”. 
Today I discovered the missing books in my collection.
I snatched them all up, as well as the index.
She had two sets of these. TWO!

I have loved the ones I’ve had, so to complete the collection has me beyond tickled.
I got my first one, “Vegetables”, at a yard sale when we still lived in Birmingham.  They are full of old Southern recipes, with illustrations and pictures from the late 19th and early 20th century.  They are gems. And I now have the complete set, which includes, but is not limited to:
Breakfast and Brunch
Just Desserts
Gift Receipts
Pies and Pastry
Socials and Soirees
Soups and Stews
Sporting Scenes
Oh the possibilities in there!

And then I found this, right next to that collection.  
The inside cover.

The note on the inside of the card. More than a few of her cookbooks had similar inscriptions. 
I love that she kept track of her cookbooks this way.  I want to start doing this to my cookbooks.
This particular cookbook was written by Eugene Walter.  The most charming man you probably have never heard of.  I read this review of his oral history, Milking the Moon: A Southerner’s Tale of Life on This Planet and thought it looked interesting.  I wrote it on a running list of books I wanted to remember to read, only to have my dear husband buy it for me one Christmas.  Go read it. 
Allison currently has my copy, otherwise I’d lend it to you. It really is mandatory reading if you are going to know me.  I’m quite sure Eugene and I would have been kindred spirits, had I ever been lucky enough to meet his acquaintance.
I have been looking for my own copy of this cookbook for years now.  I’ve borrowed it from the library, so I’ve read it, but to now own it?  Happy happy.
She actually owned the entire series, but at that point, I felt I’d picked up enough cookbooks.  As it is, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to store all these.  But this one I had to have. 
As I was walking out, I stumbled upon one last treasure, that they just gave to me, for free.

A binder of recipes, labeled as to the contents on the spine.
I found another binder with meats and casseroles and so on, and decided to leave that one.
This one, with desserts and cakes and breads suited me just fine, thank you very much.

Table of contents.
Menus – she has a spot for menus.  In there, she had menus of Thanksgivings past.  I have thought about organizing my menus of Holiday Dinners past and now I shall.

Inside, she had an assortment of recipes, all taped or glued down to looseleaf paper.

She had little headlines and sayings cut out and glued down too.

These two gems were covered by a sheet protector. Stapled to the Dark Fruitcake recipe is a note signed Mother.  It was written on a Tuesday and her mother wrote she had included some tips in the recipe so it should turn ‘just as well for you as it does for me’.  She closes saying she’s not going to the club party tonight- ‘it’s too bad for me to go out.’ In pencil, just under the ‘Tues. nite’ written in the upper right hand corner is ’66, marking the year.
Anne Thomas gave this recipe to her in 1963. It’s noted by hand in the corner.

This recipe, for green sauce, is written partly in German, with English translation.   
It looks like a Green Goddess recipe.
She had decorated some of the tab pages of the binder with images cut out of magazines and the like.  It reminds me of notebooks I made myself in high school and college, dedicated to fashion clippings.
Pictured above are the dessert and cake cover pages. 

Mother Carter gave her this Cranberry Salad recipe in 1958.
I’m guessing that was her mother-in-law.

And then there was this.  Tomato Aspic.  With multiple exclamation points on either side of EX, which I gathered was her way of saying a recipe was good, as it is on many recipes throughout her cookbooks, especially ones with stained pages and other notes. Stained pages are a dead giveaway a recipe has been tried and probably well liked.  I have never, ever been inclined to try any recipe for tomato aspic, but in going through her cookbooks today, I find myself wanting to try this.  Perhaps I shall.
Flipping through these cookbooks, I found all sorts of notes, both cooking and gardening.  As I walked through the rest of her house, I realized not only did she collect cookbooks, she was an avid knitter as well as a gardener. She was a big reader and must have been well traveled, as there were many travel books and books on other countries.  There was a number of history books too – honestly, I probably could have filled my truck up with all the books I saw in that house that I wanted to bring home. Her record collection was simply amazing.  In so many ways, I felt that I was in the home of a kindred spirit.  I’m sad our paths didn’t cross sooner, but I do feel like I was meant to stumble upon that sale today.  The only other thing I bought was a new watch – the battery in mine died a few months back and the watch is too beat up to put yet another battery into.  My new watch is a Seiko – that I got for a whopping $2.50.  I’ve wanted one of those for a long time, never thinking I could actually score one second hand for such a great price. All in all, I ended up paying about 25% of what everything had originally been marked for, which ended up being less than $25.  That’s right.  23 cookbooks and a watch, for $24. 
I spent a little bit of time looking through the knitting and gardening things, but honestly, I was so jazzed about the cookbooks, I couldn’t quite focus.  And I’m quite content with my current knitting and gardening libraries.  This was the third day of the sale – the knitting supplies had been well picked over and I don’t want to add to the stash.  (That was part of the deal with Pat when I started knitting, that I would NOT have a stash for that, as my sewing stash is uhm, sizable to say the least.).  As for the vinyl records, I know I walked away from some gems, but at that point, I was in line, ready to go and well, as much as we love music, we have been moving away from vinyl.  Most of our library is digital these days and I’m quite okay with that.  I’ve even moved to e-books, having gotten a Kindle for Christmas.  I can’t go to e-cook books though.  I need to be able to spill and to note in my cookbooks.  I need pictures.  I need to flip back and forth between pages.  I need to stack about 3 or 4 of them and cross reference similar recipes while I’m cooking, so that I can write my own recipe when I’m done. Most of all, I like using all random manner of items as bookmarks in my cookbooks and today I learned I’m not the only cook who feels that way.
What an absolute score.

8 thoughts on “Treasures and Kindred Spirits.

  1. Rebecca says:

    I would like to think that, one day, when I die and there is an estate sale of my “stuff,” that someone like you will happily stumble upon my ephemera and be as excited as you were. I'm sure she was smiling down from above, watching your joy, glad that her prized possessions would live on in someone else's home.

  2. Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) says:

    Such treasure that you stumbled upon! And to think, this woman's family didn't want any of it, but at least it ended up in good hands. Lucky you!

    One of my projects for this year is to take my late MIL's recipes and scan them for my husband and his siblings, as well as for my girls, who have started their own recipe binders.

  3. meanderingthemaze says:

    How fun! I love sales like that, especially when they contain items that were loved so. I love the enthusiasm with which you write about this. I can hear the smile on your face. What an awesome day!

  4. Erin says:

    LOVE this post! That woman would be so happy to know her beloved posessions fell into your caring hands. Your story reminds me of a few years back. We passed by a huge yard sale. I got out to take a peek, and on the lawn of this old house were the contents of the home. I mean everything! But the sad part, was the son was selling his parents stuff, and the house as well, and he had severed his relationship with them years prior. He was selling everything, from family china, to decades woth of Christmas decorations, clothes, antiques, you name it. The saddest thing I saw was an old black and white portrait of the mother. She was young, and beautiful. It was taken during the art deco period. She was in her wedding gown. She looked like a movie star. The man running the sale was saddened that the son was selling everything. He said to me, “come here, let me show you something”, and he led me to a box. Inside the box was the wedding gown. It took by breath away. And it was heartbreaking all at the same time, knowing, here was someones entire life, laid out on the lawn, for all to pick through. A wedding gown, lovingly stored, and put away for some other day, wrapped in tissue paper, for a lifetime, left out on the grass for the highest bidder. I didn't have the money for the gown, and the photo. I wanted to buy it, and keep them together. I still think about that day. I look at my own things, and hope my girls will care for what little I have. I am happy to know that you will love that ladies treasures as much as she apparantly did.

  5. Green Girl in Wisconsin says:

    Oh! What a find!
    I have my grandma's Heritage Cookbook, cherished for it's tucked-in-articles and notations. And I Have a Twentieth Century Cook Book AND that Good Housekeeping one, too!
    I believe somewhere that woman's spirit is delighted by your finding her treasure.

  6. Lesa says:

    I'm in total agreement with the comments above.

    I'm fortunate to have the cookbooks of my great aunt and I've collected vintage cookbooks for years. I love finding beloved recipes, especially with notes. Last year I made a family cookbook with old recipes, scanning them because I treasure their handwritten comments. I gave copies of the book to family. It's nice to know those recipes will be shared with another generation.

    We have a rule, living in a hurricane zone: take the yellow box when you leave. That box holds my favorite recipes, plus many vintage treasures.

    I loved your post!

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