History Through Food

Eighteen months and a dozen estate sales later, here I am. There’s a backlog of material to share, including my first beaded 1920s purse, an accidental eelskin and a rolling wooden bar cart. However, today I’m going to introduce a new series of posts inspired by my husband’s desire to learn everything there is to know about regional American cuisine for R&D. A consistent effort has been made while perusing estate sales & flea markets to take a second look at books. Our collection of regional American cookbooks welcomed 3 new additions this weekend. Well, they’re not precisely “new”, but they are new to us and we are excited about the snapshot in time that they’ll provide. That brings me to the official introduction to this exploration of local palates, regional food systems and the historical context of the creation and propagation of certain recipes. Welcome to History Through Food.

In this series I’ll be looking beyond the copyright date to explore the content at face value while examining the historical climate surrounding that regional publishing. For instance, take a look at this cover-less copy of the American Women’s Voluntary Services Cookbook (c. 1942). A book for wartime living is as applicable today as it was 74 years ago.

A book for wartime living . . .

A book for wartime living . . .

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Vintage Vanity Flair: Painted Glass Bottles with Stoppers Dresser Set

There are those occasions where the mister will gladly come along on an estate sale run and surprise me with a good find. On Black Friday, we had an inordinate amount of luck.

Maybe its because we started the day with a sunrise drop off at LAX; or perhaps it was the brisk & invigorating walk around downtown’s historic core a quarter past 7. No, no . . . it was due to the incredible breakfast we had at Nickel Diner. But that review is just going to have to wait for another time to shine.

The real winner at the estate sale would have been the person that scored this gem of a breakfast set. The chairs had a great weight to them, and the details on the table were well maintained. Pay close attention to the circle under the table. Look at those painted details!

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Mid-century modern breakfast set. Blue chairs and legs with cream seat covers. Golden accents throughout.

My breakfast nook situation at home is already pretty stellar, and without the room to spare, I had to pass on the gorgeous breakfast set. My consolation prize was finding an easy way for the mister to fulfill his Christmas stocking obligation.

I came across a bathroom set. Well, at first I thought it belonged on a vanity because the bottles were placed on a mirrored tray. After reading the bottle labels it became apparent that this grooming set may have found a home on a counter in a bathroom.

There are five painted clear glass bottles with stoppers. Four of them are labeled and they are:
1. Mouth Wash
2. Toilet Water
3. Boracic Acid
4. Peroxide

Vintage glass bottles with stoppers atop a mirrored tray make a lovely dresser or vanity set.

Vintage glass bottles with stoppers atop a mirrored tray make a lovely dresser or vanity set.

One of the bottles is unlabeled. The blue paint on the stopper and on the bottle itself is a different shade than that of the rest of the set. I wonder if it’s a replacement bottle?

The painted glass bottle with stopper bathroom set is a welcome addition to my art deco vanity. I may readapt the use of the bottles as single-stem vases. That would give my little feminine corner of our room a dose of color and a graceful air.

While I don’t want to speculate as to my husband’s holiday shopping status, I will certainly acknowledge that he’s off to a very good start.

Remembering the Greatest Generation

Yesterday was a day was filled with reflective moments. I popped in and out of this live stream of the 70th D-Day Anniversary celebrations.

So many sacrificed so much. And I was reminded of that fact while hearing the stories of four American soldiers that were well enough to make the trip back to Normandy. Truly powerful stuff. You can watch the full episode here.

Earlier this year I happened upon a birding book from 1902. When I opened the cover I found a yellowing piece of paper tucked against the crease. Based on the outlines that pamphlet left on the inside of the cover and title page, I imagine the thing had been left untouched in there for a significant amount of time. That little piece of paper happened to be a rubber & gasoline rationing pamphlet from 1942.

I have yet to scan this document, but here are some rough shots. Also of note, the cover of the pamphlet has an illustration of a Japanese soldier by Edmund Duffy. That’s for a later time as I need to research how best to preserve this piece of American WWII ephemera.

Rationing pamphlet, Office of Price Administration, 1942

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Rationing pamphlet with illustrations by Edmund Duffy, 1942

 

 

 

Pro Tip: Always check the garage

Garages get a bad rap. Between the spiders, the weird smells, and their generally unkempt nature, some folks that visit estate sales don’t even step foot into garages. But if you’re a treasure hunter like me, you know that there’s no more unexpected of a place to find a cool collectible than a garage.

While I was at work one Friday afternoon, the mister decided to take advantage of his day off and visit an estate sale in Eagle Rock. I had forwarded the description of the sale to him and he found the mention of vintage tools very enticing. So off he went with $20 in his pocket. The afternoon goes by rather quietly until I receive a text message that declares that I will soil myself upon setting eyes on his discovery. Alright, mister. I am officially intrigued.

I’m thankful for the warning because I almost lost it when I saw what was in the middle of our bedroom. A steamer trunk from the late 19th century!

Steamer trunk by A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Steamer trunk by A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Look at that label! A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

Look at that label! A.E. Meek Trunk and Bag Company.

This could possibly be one of the coolest coffee tables ever as there are four canvas-lined wooden shelves that go inside of the trunk. The metal hardware is spectacular. We’re missing the key though, so some sleuthing will need to be done. The entire trunk is reinforced with wood slats and the corners have a metal wrap. From the looks of things, this trunk was made for the rough & tumble stagecoach rides.

The exterior has the general wear & tear one would expect for a travel trunk that has survived for around 125 years. The lid has a couple of drops of (presumably) white paint, which I imagine came from the years it spent tucked away in a garage. I can’t help but wonder if the owner of the house had family that came to California from Colorado decades after the Gold Rush. Oh, if only that trunk could talk!

If it weren’t for the mister’s eagle eye and the brilliant timing we wouldn’t have found this timeless piece of Americana. I can’t wait to have this as the centerpiece of our living room once we’ve dusted off the exterior & figured out a table top solution.

The more I think of it, the more I wonder if a slab of acrylic with rounded edges is the way to go. We definitely don’t want to harm the surface by adhering a permanent bond to to it. If anyone has any tips or recs on how to convert a steamer trunk into a coffee table, please leave a comment below!