Monday, November 8, 2010


I went to Goodwill yesterday both to hunt for treasures and to kill some time before a meeting I had to attend, and I was thinking about how, as I wander through that and other thrift stores, I feel pulled in two directions: one is full of nostalgia and looking for signs of comfort (such signs being toys I played with as a child, or seeing colors or designs that remind me of my grandmother's kitchen), and the other is seeing the potential for change, the opportunity to change my identity as others perceive it through objects. And the latter may be how many items ended up in the store in the first place. Perhaps a child grew up and his or her room became a study or a sewing room, and the crewel artwork in the bedroom was given away.

Oval Portrait of Little Boy on Artfire

None of this is profound. My youngest turned 10 last week, so I guess I'm feeling a bit nostalgic anyway. I've also been feeling pretty restless, torn between thinking about my kids as babies and wondering how to find space in my life for who I am becoming as I move forward. I see tremendous possibilities as I gaze around my house and office, and at the same time I feel nostalgia as I look at the kids' pictures still hanging on the walls and fridge.

I'm feeling a bit between worlds, I guess--the worlds that I saw in Goodwill yesterday as I watched the teens finding fashionable tees to wear and the new mothers finding inexpensive baby bedding and the guy at the CD rack exclaiming over music that he hadn't heard in ages. I suppose we're all traveling between times. Vintage is all relative.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Definitely not gold!

I started thinking again about the idea of alchemy when I came across a box full of vintage cookbooks at a yard sale recently. This collection is mostly from the 1960s, and one in particular is full of those totally unappetizing photos that somehow populated cookbooks of that era. This book focuses on the many uses for canned shrimp.

It gets me thinking that there are some things that just can't be transformed.

One of my favorite recipes in the books is for something called Jellied Tuna (if there are two words that shouldn't be in the same sentence, I'm pretty sure jellied and tuna are those!). Wanna try it?

Jellied Tuna

3 eggs, separated
1.5 tsp dry mustard
1 2/3 cup evaporated milk
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 6 oz. can of tuna, drained & flaked
3/4 cup of celery
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of paprika
6 tbsp of lemon juice
6 tbsp cold water
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Beat egg yolks with salt, mustard, and paprika. Add milk and lemon juice. Cook in double boiler until it thickens, stirring constantly. Soften gelatin in cold water. Add to hot mixture. Chill mixture until it begins to jell. Add tuna, pepper, and celery. Fold in mayonnaise, then egg whites which have been beaten stiff but not dry. Pour tuna over aspic, chill for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, unmold on cold platter and garnish. Makes 8-10 servings.

So I'm curious: what's the most interesting/unusual/weird recipe you've run across in your explorations of vintage cookbooks and recipes?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recent Fun Finds

I thought I'd share here some of the fun things I've found recently in my thrifting/yard sales/estate sales explorations.

I found the salt & pepper shakers above at a cub scout yard sale. In fact, I found a tableful of odd and colorful salt & pepper shakers. Of them all, the carrots are my favorites (why is one so sad?). But these geese--who appear to be plotting evil--are pretty wonderful, too!

I also love to find odd machines--especially when they work! I found this check printer in the collection of a gentleman who also had in his possession an amazing collection of Republican National Convention items and Avon cologne bottles. Interesting mix!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Some recent trips to local thrift stores got me motivated to work again on this blog, and to think again about the notion of alchemy. Alchemy is, of course, any magical power or process for changing a common, value-less substance into one of great value. As I combed through piles of wonderful old college textbooks from the 1940s and 1950s, it occurred to me that the alchemical process for those of us who love vintage is simply one of perspective as opposed to physical change. I mean, I love to see jewelry made out of materials that others have discarded (see for an example of what amazing things can be created from simple materials), but sometimes it’s merely which person happens to be holding the item in question that gives it value.

For instance, as I was looking at all the books in a store that I had never been to before, I was struck by the number of old textbooks there were, and especially by the number of old textbooks in Russian. I began to wonder about the person who had owned them and taken such good care of them. All were in amazing condition, with no marks or tears or even edge wear. And they were beautiful books, with titles in gold on the spine and covers. There were bilingual dictionaries, some books that appeared to be literature translations into Russian (I don’t speak a word of Russian!), and more. And I started imagining the individual who had acquired these, the obvious dedication that individual had to learning, and the care that she or he had shown these volumes. In my mind, I imagine someone (for some reason that someone is male in my mind), who came from a Russian family that had somehow ended up in the southern US in the 1940s and who placed a great deal of value on education. This family wanted to preserve a language among its younger generation even while adapting to a community that must have seemed downright alien at the time.

And then this younger generation aged, and the man who I imagine owned these books died, and this lovely collection ended up in a thrift store. I suppose this would have been reverse alchemy: gold turning to lead, perhaps. And it wasn’t until someone like me, someone who experiences a thrill in dusting off a cover to reveal a title underneath (even if I can’t read it), that the process reversed itself again.

Sure, there’s no basis in any kind of fact for what I imagine. But I like feeling that I have a connection to this unknown person, if only through the shared experience of coming from immigrant families who sought to carve a place in this world without losing the old one.