Vintage Kitchen: A Lifelong Passion

Vintage jars

Remember how I mentioned in my last post that I have a passion . . . err an addiction to shopping thrift stores? That passion (which includes yard sales, estate sales and I’ve been known to do some dumpster diving in my time) began when I was young. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. Truthfully, they were the ones who instilled in me the values I hold dear. They were children of the first Great Depression and I learned from them an amazing work ethic, frugality, and respect for the earth. Whenever my grandmother went shopping, she always started at the clearance racks. Why pay full price when you can find it on sale? She also took me to my first yard sale. I loved looking through the items on the lawn and I remember buying kitschy anthropomorphized cow salt & pepper shakers for 50 cents. What a deal!

My grandmother was also a pack rat. She wasn’t a hoarder; her house was always very clean and it was not cluttered. She kept her things put away. But the coolest thing was that she would let me poke through her stored items and use anything I found that I liked. Grandma didn’t have an actual attic. My grandparents lived in a tiny house that only had 2 rooms on the second floor, tucked up under the roof. The main room had fake paneling along the slanted sides of the roof to help square it off. The panels could be slid back and behind them Grandma had stored boxes among the rafters. We had to be careful about exploring in there because the roofing nails were exposed, but once I was old enough that Grandma felt I could be in there alone, she let me explore. I still remember discovering some of Grandpa’s old shirts and ties from the 40s. I would wear his button down shirts, which would practically reach my knees, with one of his skinny ties (skinny ties were back in style in the 80s) over my pinstriped jeans and Kmart version of Chuck Taylor hi-tops. Boy did I think I was cool!

Booths "Mayfair" vintage dinnerware

Booths “Mayfair” vintage dinnerware

My grandmother wasn’t the only one who would let me poke through her storage. My grandfather’s mother lived two blocks away from my grandparents and she had a traditional attic. She died when I was 6, but I remember her letting me explore her attic a time or two before she passed. After she died, my uncle bought her house and my aunt would let me go up there quite often. One time I found a coin purse with pennies, nickels and dimes in it that dated back to the 30s. I loved them and for a time I wanted to get into coin collecting. This was long before the internet or Amazon or eBay.  Being stuck in the middle of rural Nebraska meant my opportunities to collect more coins were very limited. But for years I would look at any and every coin that crossed my hands and check the dates. Eventually I gave up that hobby and moved on to others.

Several years ago, a friend showed me the Salvation Army Family Store in The Mission and that became one of those moments that changed my life. Prior to this, I would occasionally hit the Goodwill stores in my area, but they were hit or miss and I didn’t go often. Once I found Salvation Army, it became my weekly ritual. Then I expanded my route to include the Goodwill down there; and recently I added Thrift Town and Community Thrift to my routine. There are lots of thrift shops in The Mission!

Vintage PlatesIn the beginning I was just looking for items that caught my eye and I loved vintage storage. I especially loved old clamp-lid jars and the old Ball jars with the zinc lids. I also grabbed fun hand-built ceramic bowls, mugs and pitchers. I would come across vintage dishes, but there wouldn’t be a full set, so I would walk away. And then one day the light bulb went on: I didn’t need a full set of dishes. These dishes were gorgeous and made me happy and it is totally ok to serve people on different plates. Plus I liked having different colors and styles of plates to use for my food presentations. So the addiction to vintage tableware was born and it has led me on many adventures. In fact, when I was in Florence two years ago, I happened upon a flea market and ended up grabbing two vintage English stoneware plates. Not only were they gorgeous and a good find, they became souvenirs of an amazing trip.

A couple of years ago my friend and I were driving around The Mission waiting for the Salvation Army Family Store to open when we spied a church throwing a rummage sale. We stopped in and as we were browsing I nearly peed my pants when I spotted two vintage French copper pans. Both were tin-lined and one had copper rivets. The women running the sale had no idea what they had in their possession. I also found a lovely vintage porcelain plate and as I was waiting on line to pay, several of the women working the sale came up and commented on the plate in my basket. Each time, my heart would start racing because there were signs posted everywhere that they had the right to change the price on the items for sale. But none of these women even looked at the copper pans. I paid the pittance they were asking and bolted out of there ecstatic with my purchase.

French Copper Pans I use almost every day

There are days when the bank balance is extremely low and I am stressing about my bills when I think about putting these finds on eBay. But then I’m cooking in my kitchen and I grab one of these pieces and I am suffused with a sense of peace. I love these pieces. I feel like they are connecting me to the men and women who cooked in them before me. I am tapping into the love the cooks had for those they served. I feel that love and add my own and the food I make and serve with these vintage items tastes even better.

Heirloom Carrots with Dill

Heirloom carrots with dill4 medium heirloom carrots
1 tsp olive oil
dill sprigs
pinch fleur de sel

Wash and slice carrots into rounds. Heat olive oil in sauté pan on medium heat. Toss in carrots and sauté until tender but firm, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and toss with dill sprigs and fleur de sel. A simple, yet delicious and eye-catching side dish.

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