What became of flour sifters?
or a pastry cutter? What became
of home-made bread spread
thick with home made butter?
Homemade cakes and pies and such,
alas! I cry forlorn
what became of those old days
when store-bought stuff was scorned?
What became of biscuits, muffins,
crispy apple strudels?
How I yearn for doughnuts, crullers,
and my grandma’s homemade noodles;
I remember sweet aromas
from homemade apple pie,
as it view its frozen sister,
I repress a sigh..
modern times and modern tastes
are here to stay, they say,
yet how I wish for just a sniff
of that old fashioned way!
Sandra Lee Smith
There is a TV show I enjoy watching with Ralph Story, called
“Things that aren’t here anymore” – it’s on cable and the
things being discussed are all places that used to be in and
around Los Angeles–so I don’t have any idea if the things in
question, being all about greater Los Angeles, would be
broadcasted in other cities or states or even other countries.
But every time “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore” is being re-
played on our local KCET network, I start thinking about other
things–particularly kitchen things–that aren’t here anymore.
(or can be found in antique stores).
I think of rolling pins and yes, flour sifters–I have two of each
and the handles on the very old rolling pins have been
breaking off. If it has red or green wooden handles, they are
pretty old; there was a time when some cookie cutters had
either red or green handles, undoubtedly from the same time
frame. (although considered collectibles, I actually use all
of my kitchen equipment – so sometimes, things do break).
Years ago–around the middle or late 1980s, I think, I saw a
recipe box in an antique store in Ventura…it captivated me; it
was wooden with decals pasted on the box–but the most
fascinating thing about that recipe box was that it was filled
with someone’s recipe collection. Bob & I would go up to Main
Street in Ventura every chance we got — and I didn’t buy that
recipe box when I first saw it–maybe 3 or 4 visits later. It was
$11.00 and I was as thrifty then as I am today–eventually I
bought the recipe box and then began wondering if there
were more filled recipe boxes “out there”. Well,
there were and I ended up buying quite a few but I am still
reluctant to spend over $10 for an old recipe box as much as I covet them.
Here’s a curious thing – I think recipe boxes are an American
product despite going back decades. Years ago, I discovered
that my Aussie penpals were unfamiliar with recipe boxes; I
bought a box and filled it with recipe cards for one of my
Aussie friends who enjoying cooking Tex-Mex recipes. Over
time, I discovered that recipe boxes were frequently a food
company promotion–I have boxes from Land O Lakes,
Campbell Soups, Rice Krispies, Coca Cola, Bisquick, Wisconsin
Cheese, SW Foods, Quaker Oats, Sun Maid Raisins–to name
just a few.
The collection of recipe boxes has grown to more than two
hundred boxes–most are filled, most are filled with cards I
collected or typed up when I was feeling ambitious–but my
favorites are the boxes someone else took the time to fill up.
The box I love the most isn’t a standard recipe box; its a large
cardboard filing box that I discovered at an estate sale
that Bob & I attended one Saturday morning. The cards are all
handwritten in a beautiful penmanship with emphasis on
recipes typically found in greater Los Angeles. I think I
paid $3.00 for it. Everyone who knows me knows about my
interest in old filled recipe boxes and I’ve acquired quite a few
this way. A friend of my friend Mary Jaynne was telling me
about her friend’s mother passing away – I couldn’t help but
ask “Did she have a recipe box?” – not only did she have a
recipe box, she had some cookbooks autographed by chef
Mike Roy (with whom her mother was acquainted) –which I
was delighted to receive– another time a girlfriend at work
gave me six recipe boxes that had belonged to her aunt.
What makes these boxes so fascinating to delve into? Well, for
openers, you don’t know what you may find inside. One box I
acquired was obviously very old, recipes on cards were faded
and clippings were old and falling apart. I think I figured out
that it was from the 1920s.
Another kitchen product I am fond of are old, glass measuring
cups–at one time in the somewhat distant past, amber
measuring cups could be found–possibly in boxes of a
particular brand of detergent. I googled glass measuring cups
and was astounded by the prices — starting around ten or
twelve dollars and going up to $100 or more. Not just
measuring cups. Those old glass juicers fetch a pretty penny
too. I have a couple of these. Maybe its just as well
that almost all of these desirable things are out of my price
range – if money were no object, I would be buying a lot more
of them (oh, heck, if money were no object I would remodel
my house to make enough room for all of my collections)
Sandra Lee Smith
Poem originally published in 1974 magazine called “Looking Back”
Updated July 29, 2018