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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Treasure Trove

When my mother-in-law died, there was a bit of a hurry to get things out of her house. It had been eaten by termites and was therefor given to the fire department to burn down. So not everything was super-sorted at the time, and for years we have had boxes of her belongings in our bedroom, closet, and bathroom. My husband has been very wary of going through them. I think part of it was knowing that he would be getting rid of some things, and then also knowing when we finished sorting these boxes, we would be done with the sorting through of her life forever. It would complete that part of his life. I have not pushed him at all, knowing how attached I am to things from my grandmother (I have one of her snuff cans in my fancy china cabinet!) and just waited for him to be ready. Today, out of the blue, he got one of the boxes down and said "Might as well start somewhere" (we are in the middle of a snow storm, so he offered to help me clean/organize today). What we found in that box is amazing, both cherished memories and really exciting finds. I wanted to share some of them:

First is the bill from the caterers for my husband's graduation party.

Graduation Party for Gary ____________
June 2 (60-65 persons)

Potato Salad:
10# potatoes $2.49
Onions (3 large) .39
Celery (1 bunch) .49
Salad Dressing (1/2 gallon) .90
Eggs 1 1/2 dozen .89

Macaroni Salad:
Macaroni (2 lb) $0.95
Eggs (1/2 dozen) .29
Onion (3 small) .29
Celery (1 bunch) .49
Salad Dressing (from above) .00

Baked Beans:
2 gal. beans $4.95
Onions (from above) .00
Ketchup 1.00
Brown Sugar (1 lb.) .29

Cold Cuts:
Ham $9.36
Lebanon Bologna 7.60
80 buns 4.30
Swiss Cheese 3.30
Colby Cheese 3.10

Relish Trays:
Celery (3 bunches) $1.77
Carrots (2 packages) .49
Radishes (4 packages) .78
Pickles (sweet) 1.00
Pickles (dill) 1.00
Olives (ripe 3) 1.77
Olives (stuffed 2) 2.98
Green Onions (donated) .00

TOTAL: $51.87

Now we assume by the precise tallies, and the lack of a labor cost, that it was a neighbor lady who did it, though she made up a very nice invoice! But that makes it all the greater, because we can see the prices of things and just how much they have changed (or not changed).

Another neat find was this 1938 The Housewife's Almanac (yes, that is the top of my washer). It amazed me to find information about the necessary 'bacteria' our intestines need and how the move to processed food has eliminated those 'creatures' and caused a host of intestinal 'complaints'. People are writing about this stuff now and saying it is new or cutting edge. It does have a list of zodiac signs and yearly horoscopes (yuck) but it has a lot of very good recipes and information on preparing food in the Nourishing Traditions way (though obviously that is our term for it and this was written BEFORE NT).

Next I have a Gold Medal Flour Cookbook from 1917. The binding was the first thing that caught my eye, being almost a paper-on-leather format with a definite leather spine. I do not know enough about the history of this flour to determine if it was processed heavily, but other recipes in this book are JUST what I would love to find: dandelion greens, mutton (good luck finding any recipes for mutton in any newer cookbook), real custards, game meats, sourdough bread (with their flour, of course!), tongue jelly, sweetbreads (does any even know what that IS anymore?), forcemeat, and more. I could spend a whole day just reading this book and probably a year trying out the recipes.

And this was my mother-in-law's recipe box. Inside I found an order form for food flavorings that are made with 'pure, concentrated fruits'. Obviously, the company is no longer in business because you can't do real food for the same cost as chemical fake-itives. There are some really yummy recipes in here, but without that real flavoring, I bet there is no comparing. I'm going to see if I can find real flavorings from somewhere, maybe Frontier, so I can see what the cakes would have tasted like in the old days. YUMMY!!!!!


Donetta said...

What treasures indeed. How wonderful for your beloved that he is transitioning into this phase of healing.

Faithful Catholic said...


What a treasure trove! I love the recipe box and have seen one like it on ebay for sale. I love going through my mother's and aunt's old things. A few years ago I found the cancelled check my mother wrote to pay the obstetrician who delivered me. Talk about cheap. I wonder if she knows what a bargain I was! Oh, and by the way, we always used Gold Medal flour and I believe they're still in business. It's not sold in the area where I now live but, it hasn't been that long since I lived in Virginia (where we used it) so I'll bet they have a website and probably some history on their milling.

I hope your husband finds joy in the memories you two are uncovering.

God bless!

JEANNIE said...

How Neat is all that, and I am sure so precious for your husband with the smells and touch of those old things to remind him of a time when his mother was still young and spry!.. Bless you all as you go through this part of your life.