Thursday, January 5, 2012

Anne's Things

I went to an estate sale back in the Summer at a charming little house full of quirky crafts and cookbooks and lovely vintage things. Strangely enough, I got there a couple of hours after it opened yet there were few customers there. Throughout the next couple of days, the Mister and I went there three times to look over the house and the items. Before it was done, I felt like I knew the people who had lived there. Most of all, Anne.

There were touches of Anne all over the house - from her clothes in the closet to her well-worn serving pieces in the kitchen. I was immediately drawn to her cookbook shelf and down on the very bottom amongst store-bought books, I found her handmade cookbooks. And then her recipe cards that another shopper had cast off to buy her recipe box, bound tightly with old rubber bands. And now, I keep them in my studio in their very own box.



They are incredibly fascinating to me. I love seeing Anne's delicate, perfect handwriting and the photos of dishes that she cut out of magazines and carefully pasted into notebooks. And the pages accidentally splattered with ingredients. And sometimes, she'd write little notes next to the recipes after she made them to rate them. It's funny but when I see "very good" written in her pert little script, I have no doubt that she was right. The collection starts in the early 50's when she most likely set up housekeeping and goes into the late 1980's.







I marvel at the hundreds and hundreds of handwritten recipe cards.




And the little bonuses that are tucked here and there:




Especially this car payment receipt from 1950:



And on the back of it:



Who among us couldn't use a stiff drink after making the car payment?


There is also a whole binder full of clippings from a regular newspaper column about local Nashville women and how they cooked and entertained. I LOVE these to pieces:


This clipping tells of how ladies from the neighborhood have this lady cook meals for them and then pretend that they made them with their own two hands. No wonder she looks so tired! (I'm still trying to come to terms with the Early American gas can on the table..)



I learned that this lady loves hat making and won a ribbon at the Tennessee State Fair for the sport coat that she made for her husband. On her table is Southern Fried Rabbit, Spanish Corn and Congealed Strawberry Salad (that Anne marked as "very good")


From her clipping, I learned that she has a small dining room and was once in a sorority. And that she never sees her husband because he works a lot. She is serving Open Faced Tomato Finger Sandwiches and Bing Cherry Congealed Salad.

Sometimes, I'll just take the box down and look through these things and think about how Anne took the time to plan out how she would feed her family and entertain. How she probably had "everyday dishes" and then "the good dishes" and nicely pressed linens at the ready. And she probably knew her way around a good hostess gift too.

And I think about how she'd probably laugh at how I make the same three easy recipes over and over and then kindly encourage me to try something more exciting like "Red Curry Delight" or the "Harvey Wallbanger Cake".

I think it's interesting how some people look at this stuff as "junk" - like 90% of the people at that estate sale - but how people like me (and maybe you) latch onto it and want to buy it and preserve it. In fact, I've thought up a little project surrounding Anne's collection and if things go well, it'll be on tap for this year.

Until next time,
x's and o's,
Eartha

26 comments:

sarajean said...

Great post! Wooooow! But OMG what was it about floating stuff in gelatin... *nightmares*

K0dama said...

oh I just love the cookbooks that were well used, with written comments and food spillage! What a great find :)

Beta Mike said...

What a magical find! I just know that Anne would love that you are sharing her cooking wonders with the world!

lynxymama said...

oh right on, i LOVE THIS kind of stuff! when i find hand written things in my vintage cook books i always keep them in there. my mom had 2 vintage recipe boxes in her basement and i find that they belonged to my grandma with all hand written cards and clippings! score!!

Gail Dedrick said...

I'm with you. It is a treasure.

Tomorrow I will pick up an enamel topped kitchen table that I found on Craigslist. The women selling it to me wanted to know if I was using it myself. "Oh, yes, I have been looking for one just like this."

"Good," the seller said, "because this was my Mother's and she loved this table. It is one of three or four things left, yet I did not want it to go to someone who was just going to sell it."

My stuff will all end up in a sale some day. I hope someone like you buys even a little bit and says, "Hey, this old broad was cool."

frecklewonder said...

oh, bless.

this is so fantastic. what a gem! so happy her things found their way to your hands!!

and what a cook, that anne! unbelievable. all that time. cutting and pasting images onto notebook paper?? incredible.

thank you for sharing!!!

Rae said...

i love stuff like that too. what a great collection.

Georgie Horn said...

I am so glad Anne's memory is alive with you. I hope some day someone like you will buy my stuff at an estate sale and value my things, as you do Anne's.

Barbara said...

If we ever went flea marketing, we'd be fighting over the same stuff! What a terrific score!!

knitxcore. said...

Wow! such a score! Her recipes are such an intimate snapshot of her life; it's like a diary really. awesome.

Sara In AZ said...

I would SO be all over those recipes if had been at that sale. What an awesome collection - esp. with all of the cut out pics. You can just tell what pride she took in entertaining and cooking. Just lovely!

ps - I do eat meat, but Southern Fried Rabbit - that is where I would have to draw the line. No thanks! And funny that you mentioned Harvey Wallbanger cake, my Grams makes it every Christmas!

Pam Kueber said...

I get in exactly the same mode when I go to estate sales. It's not just the house and the stuff ... it's the folks who lived there, all the ephemera that made up their lives. Suffice to say, I have more than a few recipe cards of my/their own... oh, and about 1,000 photos from The Life of Grace. Wonderful story, Eartha.

ash said...

what an absolutely wonderful collection. and what a story it tells! extraordinary.

Bandita said...

damn... i need to learn how to cook!

i'm impressed, thank you for sharing :)

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

This is fabulous - thank goodness someone like Anne, and now you, care enough to ensure that the recipe for radishes in lime jello is never lost to us. But seriously, that's a great social history document, I find this sort of thing fascinating.

The illustrations remind me of Edward Hopper.

DearHelenHartman said...

Thank you for introducing us to Ann. She was a woman after our own hearts, it seems. That's the sweetness of estate sales, the connection not to just the past but to another life. I LOVE those columns, what a treasure they are and you are for rescuing them.

Karen/Small Earth Vintage said...

"Congealed salad." Like "congealed" is a good thing. I love it.

Amber Von Felts said...

Oh yes, I think you are not alone in the blog-o-sphere as a person who enjoys the personal touches found at sales. I have bought many boxes and bags full of epherma that end up telling the tale of someones life. It is a bit voyeuristic but still nice to give a little consideration and appreciation to the life of someone who has come and go. I bet wherever Anne is she is smiling that you are enjoying her collection!

JeanieB said...

Why oh why don't we have Estate Sales in the UK?
There are auction houses who auction off bundles of stuff and charity shops that cater for 'house clearances' but no Estate Sales :-(

I love Ann's collection - I'm sure you'll do it justice in some fabulously creative way!
I was reminded of Betty Draper/Mad Men, I'm sure she'd be clipping out recipes (for the maid) and writing about her absent husband ...

CollectoratorToo said...

Oh thank you for this post! I actually started my blog awhile back as an outlet to talk about the person whose things I brought home with me from an estate sale. It always bothered me to go to estate sales and watch people quickly take all their stuff with no regard to the person. Probably because I think it'll happen to me someday! BUT, when I discovered that if honored the person by learning about them while I was there and then telling the world about the person I was ok with going to the estate sales, and it was actually a good thing to preserve their legacy. I also love that I forever remember that a dress was Lois' dress and a purse was Mary's. It's always theirs never mine. They are just letting me use it now. Anyway, I am glad to find a kindred spirit, and I love the focus on the recipes in this post, I think someone's recipe collection is a unique stamp of who they are just like a wardrobe or book collection.

JohnnyBerry said...

I love her handwriting. It looks just like my mother's. Especially the way "t's" weren't crossed when used at the end of words.

Mother taught me cursive in kindergarten -- well in advance of my second grade year, but I quickly got into trouble for not going back to cross my "t" instead doing a swoop at the end...

My mother was not a good cook -- nothing memorable -- but when she passed we found lots of recipes, cookbooks and clippings from Women's Day magazine. I have them in the garage but haven't started in on them yet.

You have a great treasure!

Van said...

Nice to see so much of the owner's personality in all of this! So many recipes, diligently written, oh my!

Sparkleneely said...

I love this post! I'm so happy you're the Keeper of Anne's Collection. I couldn't think of a better person to have found it. (I think she's happy, too.)

xoxoxoxoxo

Jen said...

What wonderful things and what a delightful story. These are treasures indeed, and I'm so glad you found them! Thank you for sharing these with us. It's these sorts of things I look for, too. They say so much about the people who owned them.

The written-in and written-on recipes are the best. I get so excited when I find an old sewing pattern with writing and notes on it. It fleshes out the story, I guess.

Brian said...

My dear, departed Grandmother wrote little notes in the margins of her cookbooks and collected recipes on index cards. My mother is the keeper now and I will be the next in line. On Christmas day I cooked the corn souffle that Grandma has written “tried this one Christmas 1963; very good” in the margin; it has been a tradition ever since.

Anne lives on through your honoring of her work and things. Thanks for a beautiful experience!

E said...

Girl this is exactly why it has taken me years to sort through my basement of treasures ! This pile of "stuff" was so special to my parents and ts just painful to let it go not knowing if it will ever be appreciated (the trash is not an option) I am so happy there are young folks like you and your followers who enjoy this era and the history behind the treasures of others! Elaine