Leftover Night a Vintage Speciality

I was recently browsing an antique mall, and in a nearby stall overheard a woman recite to her friend this proverb: Our grandmothers used it. Our mothers threw it away. And now we’re buying it back. Looking at my shopping tote a-bulge with vintage castoffs once belonging to someone else and soon to take up residence in my life, I shook my head at the truth in the old saying.

Home and unpacking my purchases, I again admired the vintage cookbooks, little girl cookie cutters with red knobs, assorted child-size cookware, hot pads sewn of fabrics from earlier decades, and an addition to my metal container collection: a red recipe box.

Of late, I’ve been utilizing the old metal containers as decorative storage for office and stationery supplies, business cards, black and white photos featuring aprons (of course!) and so on. Looking at the containers as I sit at the computer makes me happy, which is reason enough to buy one now and again.

Consistent with the saying is also the truism that we’re paying a lot more for that “old something” than our grandmothers’ paid for the same item. Just how much is too much is the question I always mull, but in the case of the red metal box, not for more than a blink. It called to me (we all know what that means), and at $8.00, I actually dubbed it the “b” word – a bargain.

You can’t imagine my surprise when I turned to this page in the April issue of Country Living-

According to CL’s antiques specialist, my red box is from the 1940s, “when designs became a bit fanciful…” The specialist noted that in today’s nostalgia-driven market, such red metal boxes are desirable and sell in the $20 range (!). Value increases with the presence of original dividers, household hints and handwritten recipes.

Dividers? Recipes? Well, strike up the band!

The box included a cache of recipes, each titled and typed out front and back on index cards. On one side of this card is the recipe for Chicken Chowder (step one: Cook a large fat hen in pressure cooker until tender.), and typed on the other – Saturday Night Special.

“Special” has long been the designation to the week’s final supper – a one-pot hodgepodge of leftovers.

From a 1949 Woman’s Day, a homemaker declares her love of smidgens of vegetables, plops of potatoes, spoonfuls of rice and cubed meats when reheated in a sauce made piquant with 3 tablespoons French’s mustard.

In 1942, Leftovers were considered so integral to cookbooks, the category was a separate chapter.

Leftover cereal? “When you have leftover cooked cereal, turn it into a glass, chill well, slice, saute to a golden brown as in Fried Mush, p. 156, and serve hot with butter, molasses, honey, syrup or jelly … or serve instead of potatoes with sausage, bacon, etc., for luncheon.” What mileage from

such humble food stuffs.

My red metal box may be of some monetary value, but to me, it’s true worth is in the recipe cards, which are like little windows into the lives of women of earlier generations…who were geniuses when it came to turning a little into something special.

Saturday Night Special

1 lb. ground beef
1 can pork & beans (1 lb 7 oz. size)
1 no. 303 can tomatoes (drained)
1 tsp. salt
1 large onion thinly sliced
2 slices bacon
1/4 c. brown sugar
Brown meat in hot skillet with no added fat.
Then add the beans, tomatoes & salt. Pour half of mixture in a baking dish. Add layer of onions and top with remaining mixture. Top with strips of bacon. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in moderate oven 350 degrees 1 hr.
Can be cooked in a skillet on top of stove.

Tie One On…an apron, of course!

Seeking the Portal to a Book

Four or so years ago, through a joint love of aprons, I made the internet acquaintance of Janet Downs. Janet, who lives in Goods Mill, Virginia, is a storyteller and fabric historian, her wealth of both drawn from a family that goes waaaay back.  
So I might put faces to her stories, Janet provided me dozens of black and white snapshots, among which was a photo of a woman standing at her stove. The details of the picture – a dishtowel folded over a hanger, the pots on the burners, her aproned self looking at the camera as if to say Well, take the picture already! Supper’s ready… I fell in love with its authenticity, and thought it the perfect voice and presence to be the portal to The Kitchen Linens Book. Turns out the picture is of Earl Downs’ mom, Virginia.

Forever, I am grateful to Janet and Earl for sharing this cherished photo. Does she not speak volumes without saying a word?

Tie One On…an apron, of course!